Kirill Kaprizov is settling into the Twin Cities after signing with the Wild in the summer, but when the prized forward will make his much-anticipated NHL debut remains a mystery.
A start date for the 2020-21 season is still up in the air. Although the league has been angling for a return on or around Jan. 1, that target is looking more and more unrealistic.
The logistics of the season, including the length and format, still need to be finalized, details that can be challenging to pin down amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic. And the NHL likely will need at least a month of lead-up time to enable players scattered around the globe to travel back to their NHL cities, satisfy any potential quarantine and testing requirements and then skate in a training camp.
Despite the uncertainty, Kaprizov has returned to Minnesota after a summer visit, bringing his agent and an interpreter with him.
Fans have clamored for Kaprizov for years, with the intrigue surrounding the Russian winger growing steadily while he played in the Kontinential Hockey League and internationally after the Wild drafted him in the fifth round in 2015.
Finally, in July, the 23-year-old signed a two-year entry-level contract, but he was unable to play in the Wild's playoff series against Vancouver in August.
General Manager Bill Guerin said the organization is going to help Kaprizov find a place to live and get acclimated with the team. After a series of negative tests, Kaprizov will be eligible to start working out at Tria Rink in St. Paul — perhaps as soon as next week.
And although he's embarking on the start of his NHL career in a new country amid a pandemic, Guerin isn't concerned about Kaprizov's transition.
"When you go someplace new, you get traded, you sign some place different, you immediately have 20 new friends and they all look after each other," Guerin said Thursday on a video chat with reporters. "Am I worried? Just knowing Kirill now and his personality and his English and how good it is, or how much better it is than he portrays, I'm not really worried about him."
Rossi to World Juniors
The Wild is sending first-round draft pick Marco Rossi to the IIHF World Junior Championship that starts later this month in Edmonton where he'll represent his native Austria.
"It's the best tournament in the world for players that age," Guerin said, "and the experience of being in that tournament is a huge benefit in a player's development."
After the Wild drafted Rossi ninth overall in October, the team loaned the 19-year-old center to the ZSC Lions in Switzerland where he appeared in one game, tallying an assist. He was later sidelined with COVID-19 but has since recovered.
Rossi still will get to compete for a roster spot with the Wild, even if his participation in the tournament ends up overlapping with training camp.
The team's decision not to bring back Mikko Koivu, who went on to sign with Columbus, left a vacancy at captain that Guerin expects to address before next season begins.
"We'll have something done before training camp," said Guerin, who explained how long a player is signed for won't factor into the deliberation. "I think for me it's important that the captain is somebody who everybody respects, somebody that shows up every night, somebody who has the team's best interest at heart [and] somebody you can count on. I think we've got some good options."
Even though there isn't a set date for when players need to report to the Twin Cities, some — such as Kaprizov — are already in Minnesota.
Nine players have been cleared to train at Tria Rink, including newcomers Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad. Players are skating three days a week.
"All I really care about is that wherever they are, they're getting the proper training and they're on the ice and they're not going to miss a beat when they get here and that they get here on time," Guerin said. "Other than that, they can do whatever they want and spend time with their family. I think it's healthy for them."