An offseason of change means the Wild will start the truncated 2021 season with a new goalie, a new captain and new blood throughout the lineup. Keying that new-look approach will be a pair of high-end prospects, one who'll be counted on to make an immediate impact and another who could fill a big need if he can make the roster.
Kirill Kaprizov, the Russian phenom who's been on the minds of Wild fans since he was drafted in 2015, finally is slated to make his Minnesota debut. A two-time 30-goal scorer in the Kontinental Hockey League, the 23-year-old left winger has been skating with teammates at Tria Rink in preparation for Sunday's training camp reporting day.
Marco Rossi, the Wild's 2020 first-round draft pick, has made no secret of his desire to make the roster and fill a need at center this season. He'll report to training camp after completing his stay with Austria in the World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
Wild coach Dean Evason spoke with media members via video call on Wednesday and was looking forward to seeing both players in camp.
"We're excited about having [Kaprizov] on our team, there's no question about it. We know his skill set," Evason said. " … The only expectations are that he works his butt off in practice, has a great attitude and comes ready to play. What we've seen so far with him is that is exactly what he's going to do."
In the World Junior Championship, Rossi has been held scoreless as Austria has been outscored 22-1 in losses to the United States, Sweden and Russia. Still, Evason has seen positives from the center and expects him to battle for a roster spot.
"Obviously, their team isn't as strong as a lot of teams, but he's conducted himself extremely well. He's worked," Evason said. "There's not a lot of offensive production because of the lopsided games, but if you watch his games, [assistant coach] Darby [Hendrickson] said he doesn't cheat the game. He plays the right way. … By all our indications, his attitude is tremendous."
Austria finishes pool play on Thursday against the Czech Republic, needing a win to advance to the quarterfinals. A loss would end Austria's tournament stay.
Zuccarello, Stalock sidelined
Evason said right winger Mats Zuccarello and goalie Alex Stalock will miss at least the start of training camp, but all other players will be ready to participate. Zuccarello had surgery on his right arm in the offseason, and the timetable for his return is uncertain. Stalock is out indefinitely because of an upper-body injury.
With Stalock out, the Wild signed veteran goalie Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract. Hammond and Kaapo Kahkonen will compete to be the backup to free-agent signee Cam Talbot.
"Always competition, for sure," Evason said. "Yes, we have people penciled into spots, obviously, but there's competition of who plays and who's on our taxi squad."
Two game-type scrimmages planned
With no exhibition games before the season opens Jan. 14 at Los Angeles, Evason plans to put the Wild through two scrimmages that will serve as simulated games at Xcel Energy Center.
"We'll throw in some controlled scrimmages throughout our practices, but we actually have two games to be played over at Xcel to provide a gameday atmosphere with morning skates," he said. "Basically, we're five days of practice, play a game on the sixth day, day off on the seventh, and another [game] on the eighth.
"We'll have two for sure, and if we feel we need another one, we'll pop another one in there."
Awaiting word on the captain
The Wild chose not to re-sign veteran center Mikko Koivu, so the team will have a new captain for the first time since 2009. General Manager Bill Guerin said in early December that the team would name the new captain before training camp, and Evason reiterated that Wednesday.
"You should know soon," the coach said, adding no specifics.