The world junior championships in Toronto and Montreal starting the day after Christmas could be fun for Wild fans.
At least four prospects are considered shoo-ins: the United States’ Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson Ek and Russia’s Karill Kaprizov. There’s also a chance Dmitry Sokolov makes Russia, Gustav Bouramann makes Sweden and University of Michigan’s Nicholas Boka makes the U.S.
“It’s always a good tournament, but this should be a real good one because I don’t know if there’s any clear-cut favorite,” Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr said.
One of the most intriguing players in the tournament could be Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick in 2015 and the first Russian taken in what at the time was Chuck Fletcher’s seventh draft as Wild GM.
Kaprizov is on a tear for Salavat Yulaev in the Kontinenal Hockey League. On a career-high nine-game point streak, he has nine goals and 19 points in the past 15 games.
He’s already scored a career-high 12 goals, and his 26 points in 30 games is fifth all-time in a single season for a KHL player under age 20. Fourth? Kaprizov’s 27 points as an 18-year-old, only those points came in 53 games.
The Wild hopes Kaprizov will attend his first development camp next summer. He has one more year left on his KHL contract and the Wild expects he’ll come to North America for the 2018-19 season.
“We’re fine with him staying another year. He’s getting better,” Flahr said. “But he’s told his agent and [friend and former linemate] Sokolov that he wants to come over, that he definitely wants to play in the NHL.”
It’ll be interesting to see who captains the Americans. Kunin, the Wild’s first-round pick in the 2016 draft, is captaining the University of Wisconsin (the first sophomore in 41 years to do that at Wisconsin) and captained a U.S. Under-18 team that had Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in 2016 NHL draft, and Matthew Tkachuk, the No. 6 pick.
Kunin, who scored 19 goals as a freshman, was leading the Badgers with six goals in nine games before Saturday’s game against Merrimack. Greenway, a power forward who visited with Fletcher recently in the Boston Bruins press box, was leading Boston University with six goals in 10 games before Saturday’s game against Connecticut.
Eriksson Ek, who could captain Sweden at the world juniors, was reassigned to his Swedish Elite League club, Farjestad, Thursday after scoring two goals and three assists in nine games for the Wild.
Parise sits out
Zach Parise missed his seventh game in the past nine Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, only this time because of illness.
With Parise out, defenseman Nate Prosser, scratched the past five games, played 11 shifts at wing. He did that a few times under former coach Mike Yeo.
“They’re throwing me where they need me,” Prosser said before the game. “I just have to make sure I move my feet and try to make hard, simple plays.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau said Prosser was playing “great” when he removed him from the lineup, but the Wild made the decision to recall Mike Reilly in an attempt to spark the power play.
“It’s never easy, but it’s something I’ve been accustomed to,” said Prosser, who has been an in-and-out player during his eight-year Wild career despite being the second-longest-tenured player. “Nothing surprises me really anymore. It’s where I’m at. I just roll with it and try to stay positive. It can be frustrating at times. It’s in every hockey player’s blood, they want to be in the game. I’m getting a chance again in a weird circumstance.”