You’ve got to feel for Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov. It’s not easy assimilating to a new country in the middle of a pandemic.
The 23-year-old Russian touched down at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for the first time over the summer, hung out in his hotel room for a few days with the state in full lockdown, then immediately hopped on a plane back to his native country.
He returned to the Twin Cities last month in preparation for training camp, and while he has stopped by Ryan Suter’s house for dinner, Kaprizov spends most of his days at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul, and his nights at his apartment in downtown Minneapolis.
The highlight of Kaprizov’s week so far was watching the semifinals of the World Junior Championship with Wild teammate Matt Dumba. Naturally, there were some friendly wagers placed between the Russian and the Canadian.
“It was fun,” Kaprizov said through a translator. “It was great to watch the games. Obviously it sucks that Russia didn’t do too well.”
This is life for Kaprizov at the moment.
While there will be loads of fanfare whenever life returns to normal, Kaprizov is able to keep a relatively low profile for now.
He says he doesn’t do much away from the rink. He hasn’t even been to the Mall of America yet. In fact, the only chance fans might have to catch a glimpse of the the talented forward is if they see him when he makes an occasional Target run.
That’s fine with Kaprizov. He’s here to play hockey, first and foremost, and that’s his focus with the Jan. 14 season opener against the Kings in Los Angeles on the horizon.
It is looking like Kaprizov will be playing on the top line when the puck drops on the season next week. He has been skating alongside Nick Bjugstad and opposite Zach Parise in practices this week, and the group already has started to develop some chemistry.
“Everything’s going well so far,” Kaprizov said. “The only thing is some of the English is obviously a barrier.”
It’s not that Kaprizov doesn’t understand English. He can actually hold his own in conversations in the locker room — and he even answered a couple of questions on his own during a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. He just gets tripped up if someone starts talking too fast.
While that can make practices difficult at times — like when coach Dean Evason is explaining a drill — teammates have been quick to help him out on the ice.
Plus, with pretty much everyone around him speaking English off the ice, Kaprizov is picking up new phrases every minute.
“They are always finding a way to communicate and help out,” Kaprizov said. “They have been super helpful and super comforting.”
As much as Kaprizov is starting to feel at home with the help of his teammates, he will feel even more at home once games are underway. Everyone speaks the same language on the ice.