Dump the puck. Grind on the forecheck. Crowd the crease. Play for the rebound. Screen the goaltender. Get an ugly goal, a greasy goal, a deflection. Play and pray for puck luck.

We've been hearing these phrases from the Wild's coaches and players for 21 years, and they always made sense, in much the same way that having a bad hitter bunt makes sense. That approach can work, but it is also an admission that you lack talent, that your best players are more Clutterbuck than Crosby.

Even Zach Parise, who has been a star in the NHL and on Wednesday scored his 800th point, has always prided himself on playing the percentages, on volume shooting and deflections.

What we're seeing from the Wild this season is a hint of genius amid the mucking about, and perhaps a hint of greatness for the player who could be the future of the franchise.

Wednesday night, the Wild won its fourth straight game, 6-2, over the talented Colorado Avalanche on the road. The Wild scored six goals without a point from its most talented goal-scorer, Kevin Fiala.

The Wild has scored 20 goals in their past four games. Rookie Kirill Kaprizov has five assists and one goal in that stretch.

At 23, while adapting to a new country and dealing with pandemic restrictions, Kaprizov leads an NHL team in scoring by four points. Entering Thursday, he led all NHL rookie scorers by three points.

Kirill Kaprizov statistics

He's not just good. He may be transformative. He may be changing the way the Wild looks and plays.

This would be a bad time to accuse anyone of being "contagious," but Kaprizov's passing seems to be catching. He has displayed the ability to make the subtle touch pass, to find an open teammate on the other side of the rink, to pass to teammates who may not even realize they're open.

Now instead of simply making the simple play, his teammates look like they're playing team pinball. Unselfishness begets unselfishness. Puck movement begets puck movement.

On the Wild's first goal on Wednesday, Kaprizov took a pass to the left of the goalie. Instead of shooting, he flicked a pass across the crease to Mats Zuccarello who flicked in a no-angle shot under the arm of a defenseman.

In the coming years, Kaprizov will learn to take that shot instead of making a pass for a low-percentage chance. He'll learn to adopt a productive level of goal-scoring selfishness. As a newcomer to the team and the league, he's endearing himself to teammates with his passing. He's winning games and influencing people.

He also might be on his way to establishing himself as the Wild's best and most important player.

Fiala leads the teams in goals, with six, but has just one assist. He knows his job is to score goals, and he's likely to go through streaks and droughts.

Kaprizov's high-energy play, balletic skating, endurance and passing should make him the more consistent player, even if Fiala proves to be a star. It's hard to defend a passer, especially one who doesn't require much time or space.

Kaprizov gives die-hard fans a reason for hope, and casual fans a reason to watch.

The long, relentless grind of the NHL season, especially with the Wild playing so many late-night games, is made for die-hards.

Casual fans may not appreciate Jonas Brodin's subtle positioning. Anyone who likes sports can appreciate Kaprizov taking the puck, skating in circles around the defense and finding an open teammate through a labyrinth of sticks and skates.

Kaprizov brings you to the edge of your seat like few hockey players, and fewer NHL rookies.

In the past four games, he's helped shift the Wild toward the top of the division.

He has much to learn about scoring goals and protecting himself from heavy hitters, but he's already the best reason to watch the Wild.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com