LOS ANGELES — When he broke into the NHL with New Jersey, Zach Parise had a group of veterans helping him make the adjustment — gaining insight from the likes of Scott Gomez, Jay Pandolfo and Jamie Langenbrunner.
Now, 15-plus years later, the tables have turned and it's Parise who's become the mentor.
"I guess it comes full circle," he said.
Parise has been riding shotgun with rookie Kirill Kaprizov since training camp opened, and he remained in lockstep with Kaprizov during the 23-year-old's dazzling three-point NHL debut Thursday in the Wild's 4-3 overtime win over the Kings.
The veteran winger was on the ice when Kaprizov set up the team's first two goals, scooping up the ceremonious puck after Kaprizov's first NHL point. And in between whistles, he was still offering guidance to his new teammate.
"It's great to have Zach help me," Kaprizov said in Russian through a translator. "Obviously, he's extremely knowledgeable about the game and he has a lot to offer. He always gives me little tips and advice throughout the game and in practice and in the season. And not just him. All of my teammates really help out.
"I feel very comfortable on the ice throughout practices and the games. But if I have a question or any concerns, I ask my teammates, my coaches, and everyone is very helpful."
As Kaprizov's linemate, Parise has goals of simplifying the game and keeping the lines of communication open — a strategy he feels will benefit everyone.
"If we can know what we're doing off faceoffs, know what we're doing on entries and in the zone, it just makes the game easier for not only him but me, too," Parise said.
Victor Rask was a frequent scratch last season and didn't appear in any of the Wild's playoff games, but this season he's not just back in the lineup. He's climbing the depth chart.
After an in-game promotion Thursday to the top line following his third-period goal, Rask started Saturday's game back with Parise and Kaprizov.
"The whole time I've been here you never hear Victor Rask complaining," coach Dean Evason said. "You never hear him pouting. You never hear him being a bad teammate. As an assistant coach, I've had a lot of extra skates with him and there was never a work-ethic issue. He had a long training period to come back and was rejuvenated and fresh and wanted an opportunity."
The Wild kept up its tradition of recognizing a player of the game following Thursday's win, but the memento players will pass around this season is new.
After using a whitewater rafting helmet from the team's preseason trip to Vail, Colo., last season, the team has adopted a hydration bucket as its replacement and Kaprizov was the first recipient after his winning goal in overtime.
"That's actually [captain Jared Spurgeon]," winger Marcus Foligno said about the switch. "He texted me one day. He's like, 'We just gotta change it up.'" We had the red helmet, the whitewater rafting helmet, last year. It's a new season. I don't know if it's something off of 'Happy Gilmore' that we watched or something like that, but it's good. The guys are liking it."
Wild players don't seem to have settled on a nickname for Kaprizov yet.
Spurgeon referred to him as "Kappy" when awarding him the hydration bucket Thursday night. Foligno mentioned "Magic Man," and defenseman Matt Dumba is going with "Dolla Bill Kirill." The team has also used "Kirill the Thrill."
"We'll just keep switching on him, and he just keeps laughing at it," Foligno said. "There's going to be a lot this year."
Despite the line juggling, the Wild used the same personnel Saturday as Thursday.
Evason has two extras on the active roster in defenseman Brad Hunt and forward Gerald Mayhew, in addition to a six-player taxi squad, and said any changes will be evaluated game by game.
"We want to get everybody involved if we can," he said, "but obviously you hope you have success with the group and you don't have to move people around."