First, the food. Not only did Paul Fenton try the borscht during his recent trip to Russia, the Wild general manager liked it enough to have a few helpings while he was in the country to visit prospect Kirill Kaprizov.
The beet soup wasn’t the only thing that suited his taste. Fenton raved about Kaprizov on Wednesday after the Wild’s practice at Tria Rink, calling his skill level “as good as anybody that we have.’’ Despite that, Fenton said he won’t bring the young Russian forward to Minnesota until his Kontinental Hockey League contract expires in April 2020, ending speculation that the Wild might try to buy it out.
Kaprizov, 21, was drafted by the Wild in the fifth round in 2015 and is perhaps the team’s most highly anticipated prospect. This season, he has 10 goals — including five game-winners—and seven assists in 24 games for CSKA Moscow.
“He’s going to be a terrific player for us,’’ said Fenton, who saw Kaprizov in five games. “He’s got the ability to be a natural goal-scorer.
“He loves the game, and he’s so smart. He really sees the play before anything transpires.’’
Fenton took Kaprizov to dinner and called him “a really nice young man’’ who is constantly smiling and understands English well. Though he scored only one goal during Fenton’s visit, Fenton said Kaprizov “continuously’’ had scoring chances and demonstrated a nice finishing touch on his lone goal. He also noted the 5-10, 192-pound winger has superb vision and makes quick decisions with the puck.
The Wild plans to wait out the 1½ years remaining on Kaprizov’s KHL contract. Playing in a league with so many older pros will be good for him, Fenton said, even though he appears ready to start his NHL career.
“I’d be excited if he was on our team right now,’’ Fenton said. “But the maturity he’s going to have in another 18 months before he comes here, he should be even that much better.
“We’re going to see more of a finished product, and he’ll probably be able to handle the rigors of the NHL a lot better then. The nice part is, he continues to put large numbers up and create scoring opportunities every night.’’
As far as the players who are already here, Fenton is content to stand pat for now. Before the season, he said he wanted to take time to get to know the Wild’s personnel before making any significant changes.
He continues to analyze the roster and look for ways to improve it. Fenton said if a deal presents itself, or if he sees an opportunity to make an upgrade, he will act — but he doesn’t anticipate any moves soon, particularly after a 5-2 road trip that concluded Sunday.
“I’m very happy with the way things have gone,’’ he said. “The road trip was very successful. Now with this homestand, we’re looking forward to having a good run.’’
• Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk said he still was “pretty sore’’ Wednesday after a collision in the net during Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Washington. The Capitals’ Tom Wilson, just reinstated after serving 14 games of a 20-game suspension for an illegal check to the head, barreled into Dubnyk after scoring with 28 seconds left in the first period.
Dubnyk practiced Wednesday, though the Wild did bring in emergency goalie Connor Beaupre in case Dubnyk wasn’t able to stay on the ice. He does not expect to sit out any games or practices, despite the lingering pain.
“I feel like a 200-pound man ran his hip into my forehead at full speed,’’ Dubnyk said with a chuckle. “My head and neck are pretty sore and stiff. I’ll be fine.’’
• Forward Eric Fehr was not at practice because his wife, Rachel, had a baby late Tuesday night. Theodore John Fehr was born Tuesday at 11:13 p.m.