As his star has continued to rise this season, Minnesota Wild star Kirill Kaprizov has started to get increased attention from opposing teams. And it hasn’t exactly been the friendliest of attention.
Whether it be a crosscheck into the boards, or a shove after the whistle, opposing teams are very clearly trying to get in Kaprizov’s head. Perhaps because the 24-year-old rookie forward is living rent free in theirs.
The good news? It hasn’t affected Kaprizov in the slightest. If anything, it has lit a fire under him. He has 10 goals over the past 10 games, and has proven more than capable of sticking up for himself.
Just ask the Vegas Golden Knights. They tried to get to him on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center and Kaprizov gladly accepted the challenge. The sequence started with Nicolas Hague delivering a dangerous check from behind.
Not surprisingly, resident Wild tough guy Marcus Foligno jumped in to make sure Kaprizov didn’t have to fight that battle. While the officials tried to break up that massive scrum, though, Zach Whitecloud decided to poke the bear, and Kaprizov responded with a double-leg takedown.
That type of response is exactly what the Wild have come to expect out of the young Russian this season. He doesn’t back down.
“Yes, Kirill does that, no question,” coach Dean Evason said. “I think people get surprised when it’s the goal-scorer or skilled guy that sticks his nose in there. Why wouldn’t he? Everyone should do it.”
As far as Foligno is concerned, Kaprizov shouldn’t have to do it. Which is why he was so quick to step in when Hague delivered what he felt was a dirty hit.
“You have to do that,” Foligno explained. “You have to make sure there’s space out there for him.”
In that same breath, Foligno made sure to mention that Kaprizov held his own in the tussle with Whitecloud. You’d have sworn the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Dolla Bill Kirill was a wrestler in a past life.
“It’s awesome to see that coming from a superstar,” Foligno said. “It rubs off on everyone, and that can only make everyone around him better. Whenever he gets hit, we don’t really worry because he’s such a big guy already that he can take it and he can give it. We just have to make sure he’s not taking it every game.”
So far the Wild have done a good job of that. If it’s not Foligno jumping in, it’s Jordan Greenway. If it’s not Greenway, it’s Joel Eriksson Ek. If it’s not Eriksson Ek, it’s Ryan Hartman. And so on.
If push comes to shove, though, they know Kaprizov can handle himself.
“He’s a strong kid,” Hartman said. “You should see him with his shirt off. He’s pretty chiseled. He’s strong and can definitely stand up for himself. But ideally we’d like to be doing that for him. We got guys in here who can stand up for him and he can focus on scoring goals.”