During the first period of his first NHL game, Kirill Kaprizov carried the puck into the heart of the Los Angeles Kings' defense, drawing three opponents to him. The puck slipped away under pressure and slid to Jonas Brodin, who scored the first goal of the Wild season.
In the second period, Kaprizov energized the Wild's top power play, winning battles for the puck and making quick, deft passes.
In the third period, Kaprizov made a spinning, blind pass that hit Jared Spurgeon on the tape near the Kings' goal for a quality scoring chance, then earned his second assist after spinning away from the defense behind the goal.
After the Wild sent the game to overtime, Wild coach Dean Evason sent out his four-on-three power play — his captain (Jared Spurgeon) and his three best forwards.
That would be Zach Parise, Kevin Fiala and Kaprizov.
And with about 1:20 left in overtime, Kaprizov stole a pass outside the Kings' blue line, broke in alone and stuffed in his first career goal for the game-winner.
Asked what he was thinking as Kaprizov broke in, Wild coach Dean Evason said, "Please score."
It was a play requiring anticipation, awareness, skill and guts. The goal itself wasn't a beauty, but the play that set it up was gorgeous.
Wild fans get to decide what was more impressive — Kaprizov's production, or his poise.
"Certainly, we're all talking about the offensive side of the puck," Evason said. "The defensive side of the puck was awesome as well. When you have no fear as a staff to put someone on the ice who is special like that, it makes it a very easy decision."
Evason said Kaprizov's conditioning "is phenomenal. He comes off, there's no red face, there's no heavy breathing. It's like he could go right away the next shift. When you have that ability to go back with somebody like that, clearly they're going to get more ice time."
Welcome to the Minnesota Prospect Pantheon, Mr. Kaprizov.
And by "Welcome," I mean, on behalf of all Minnesotans, don't break our hearts.
Recent Minnesota sports history is a list of incoming players and coaches who either weren't as good as expected or weren't as transformative as promised.
Minnesotans are accustomed to disappointment, and that self-pity is statistically justified.
Kaprizov is the latest in a line of young prospects, including several from overseas, who carries with him expectations that will not fit into your average overhead compartment.
He's quick and skilled. He can score goals and set them up. He was a spectacular player in Russia.
Once again, I am willing to be naively optimistic about a phenom, just as I have been about Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Karl-Anthony Towns and ... you get the idea.
Minnesotans have gotten excited about foreign players before. Ricky Rubio was drafted before Steph Curry. In his first stint in Minnesota, he became a good player on a struggling team. In his second stint, he has become a poor player on a terrible team.
Mikael Granlund excited Wild fans with a lacrosse-style stuff-it-in goal in international play, but when he arrived in Minnesota he defied expectations by becoming a solid two-way player instead of a spectacular scorer.
I believe Kaprizov will be a creative scorer for a franchise that has employed about two or three of those since its inception in the year 2000.
I believe Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala will be the best scoring duo in franchise history.
I believe Zach Parise could have a highly productive season as another good top-six forward instead of the focus of every opposing defense.
I believe the Wild will make the playoffs and be as entertaining this season as they have ever been.
And when Kaprizov was on the ice on Thursday night, they were.
The Star Tribune reporter did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.