The most special athletes, the best of the best, don't make you search for their brilliance. It is easy to spot. That said, there is also nuance to their game and a subtle genius that you might not see on first glance.
Their movements — while this is hard to define in some cases — are different even from the other elite players with whom they are sharing a playing surface.
And yes, they make you prone to outrageous and perhaps far-too-early comparisons, which I'm about to get into.
So let's start here: Kirill Kaprizov is the best Minnesota rookie in any sport in years. It might seem ridiculous to say that after he's played only four games — scoring the winning goal or assisting on it in all three wins, by the way, all while the Wild searches for a center to pair with him — but that's the nature of brilliance. It's obvious and immediate.
When he makes his home debut on Friday for the Wild — the Minnesota Wild, never the Minny Wild or Minny anything — it will be an occasion to mark, even if fans can't be in the stands and some of you won't be able to watch on FSN.
Just how many years we have to go back to find a suitable comparison is a matter for debate that possibly requires a larger sample size even though we can clearly already see that Kaprizov is special.
The list of Minnesota players who compare — that came in as highly anticipated rookies and IMMEDIATELY made it easy to see they were going to live up to the hype in a big way — is not long. To me, over the last 25 years, it goes like this:
*Karl-Anthony Towns for the Wolves in 2015.
*Maya Moore for the Lynx in 2011.
*Adrian Peterson for the Vikings in 2007.
*Joe Mauer for the Twins in 2004.
*Randy Moss for the Vikings in 1998.
Moss is where we reach a "full stop." He had 95 yards and two touchdown catches, making defenses look silly in the process, in his 1998 rookie debut. You could tell in about three seconds that the Vikings had a special, perhaps generational talent. He is still the gold standard from the five players I just listed.
There have been plenty of other VERY GOOD Minnesota rookies who were both highly anticipated and successful. I'll listen to arguments for Justin Jefferson and Marian Gaborik.
But if we're talking about Day 1, watching and thinking a team has found a franchise player? That's the list.
Kaprizov will have some games that are better than others. But his combination of play-making, speed and anticipation will be a factor every single night. So, too, will his subtle gifts — like the work along the end boards and delicate little pass that was the second assist on Joel Eriksson Ek's winning goal on Wednesday. Those are the small space, quick decision plays that define the NHL these days.
Wild fans have been waiting for this for a long time. In cases like that, the payoff is often a letdown.
With Kaprizov? He's been everything you could want and more.