After a few months of long-distance courtship with prize prospect Kirill Kaprizov, Wild General Manager Paul Fenton will take the relationship to a new level this weekend when he travels to Russia to meet the young forward for the first time.
Fenton said Friday he will watch Kaprizov, drafted 135th overall by the Wild in 2015, play in several games for CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. He also plans to have dinner with Kaprizov and his parents. During the trip, Fenton also will get a firsthand look at another Wild draftee playing for CSKA Moscow, forward Andrei Svetlakov, and scout some free agents.
Kaprizov, 21, is considered the Wild’s most intriguing prospect. Though his KHL contract runs through next season — and there have been no discussions about ending it early — Fenton said he expects Kaprizov to eventually sign with the Wild.
“All indicators are saying that yes, we are confident he wants to be a part of the Minnesota Wild organization,’’ Fenton said. “It will be a good experience for me to physically see him, meet him, try to build a relationship with him, so we know that in the future, he’ll be one of us.’’
A 5-9 winger, Kaprizov is off to a strong start in his fifth KHL season. He has a team-high 10 goals in 22 games, along with seven assists. Kaprizov averaged nearly a point per game in each of the past two seasons and won a gold medal with Team Russia at last February’s Winter Olympics.
Fenton said he has been in frequent contact with Kaprizov’s agent, Dan Milstein, since becoming the Wild’s GM in May. He will watch him play two games in Russia and three more in a tournament in Finland.
Though Fenton knows only one word in Russian — “da,’’ which means yes — he’s confident he can make Kaprizov and his family understand how much the Wild covets him.
“We’re very, very, very, very interested in him,’’ Fenton said. “I think that’s the most important thing, to show him that we have the love for him.’’