LOS ANGELES – Prized prospect Kirill Kaprizov could debut in the NHL with the Wild as soon as next season. General Manager Bill Guerin has learned that’s what the 22-year-old wants from talking to his agent.
Guerin isn’t worried about Kaprizov making an impact when that happens. He isn’t expecting the forward to swoop in as a savior for the Wild.
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a player,” Guerin said. “That’s why you see some guys at the [trade] deadline, they go to wherever they’re going and they struggle. They put so much pressure on themselves, and I just want him to be able to come in and just have a lot of support.”
Guerin will be in Russia from Dec. 1-3 to visit with Kaprizov, a trip in which he plans to catch one of Kaprizov’s games with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League and have dinner with the 2015 fifth-round draft pick.
Through 23 games this season, Kaprizov has 13 goals and 25 points, but Guerin recognizes transitioning to the NHL will be quite a change for the winger — a process the Wild wants to help ease.
“He’s going to be coming into a new culture, new league,” Guerin explained. “Everything’s going to be new, and there’s going to be an adjustment period. There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle that we need, and he’s one of them. But I don’t want it all put on him to where we throw him out on the ice and everything’s fixed. That’s too much on one person.”
Decisions on defense
Greg Pateryn, who’s missed the entire season after undergoing core muscle surgery Oct. 1, is expected to practice with the Wild when the team returns home.
“He’s doing well,” Guerin said. “He’s progressing.”
Once Pateryn is ready to play, the Wild anticipates keeping eight defensemen on the roster, but it’s unclear if Pateryn will immediately step into the lineup.
“We’re going to have to see how that goes,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I don’t want to make any statements on whether he’s jumping right in or whether he’s going to have to fight his way in. When he’s healthy and we see him at practice, then we’ll know what we have.”
Since Pateryn has been sidelined, Carson Soucy has taken the bulk of the minutes next to Brad Hunt on the Wild’s third pairing.
“He’s playing great,” Guerin said of Soucy. “There’s a lot there. He’s an everyday player.”
Nick Seeler, who was a regular with the Wild last season, has played just four games and was a healthy scratch Tuesday against the Kings after he was a late addition to Saturday’s lineup when winger Luke Kunin was sidelined with food poisoning.
Seeler took just two shifts against the Coyotes, playing 1 minute, 15 seconds.
“Always feel for guys like that,” Guerin said. “It’s awful that we have to do that because he works as hard as everybody. He competes like crazy, and you want everybody to be able to play. So you do feel for a guy like that, but we also have to do what we have to do. His attitude has been unbelievable. He gets it. He’s a team guy. Guys that do that are just real good pros.”
The Wild completed its four-game road trip Tuesday, a tour that tied for its longest of the season.
It’ll have another four-game trek to close out the regular season March 29-April 4.
“I think a couple guys got apartments,” Boudreau said. “We play 20 of our first 30 on the road. If we can stay in the hunt at that point in time, I think the middle part of the season will be really good.”