Wild executives and scouts hope to meet with Kirill Kaprizov this week to, in part, give him his Minnesota Wild draft jersey with the No. 15 on the back.
Because Kaprizov wasn’t at the 2015 NHL draft when he was taken in the fifth round by the Wild to become the first Russian selected in the Chuck Fletcher/Brent Flahr era, team brass hasn’t physically met the young star yet.
The Wild hopes that will change in the next few days assuming Kaprizov and Russia beat Denmark in the quarterfinals of the world junior championships Monday in Toronto to advance to the semifinals in Montreal.
“It’s just to say hello, make a greeting and let him know we’re happy with his development,” Flahr, the Wild’s assistant GM, said from Montreal, where he has been scouting the tournament.
Four Wild prospects are taking part in the tournament, and each has made quite the impact.
Kaprizov, Russia’s captain, is tied for first in the tournament with five goals, is first with four power-play goals, tied for second with eight points and first with 18 shots.
The United States’ Jordan Greenway, a 2015 second-round pick, ranks second with 17 shots and is tied for 16th with four points. He has been a beast.
“He’s a big body,” Flahr said of the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Greenway. “He’s playing with lots of confidence right now making plays offensively. When he sticks his butt out and he’s moving his feet on the cycle, he’s hard to deal with. When he goes to the net, he’s so big and strong, it’s hard to defend, especially at this level.”
Linemate Luke Kunin, the Wild’s 2016 first-round pick and the U.S. captain, ranks fifth with 15 shots, has two assists and leads with 25 penalty minutes in large part because of an interference major and game misconduct he received against Canada on Saturday for checking Flyers prospect Philipe Myers behind the net.
Flahr, like many, thinks the check was clean and that it will be rescinded and he’ll be eligible to be in the American lineup in the semifinals Monday against Switzerland.
And, Sweden captain Joel Eriksson Ek, the Wild’s 2015 first-round pick, is tied for ninth in the tournament with five points and second with a plus-7 rating. The Swedes play Slovakia in the quarters.
This is the second time in Wild history it’s had three captains representing world junior teams. In 2010, Jason Zucker captained the U.S., Mikael Granlund captained Finland, and Johan Larsson captained Sweden.
“It’s been fun to see our guys performing so well,” Flahr said.
Kaprizov has scored 15 goals and 30 points in 37 games in the Kontinental Hockey League and has a chance to become the most prolific under-20 player in league history. Some names on that list: St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The Wild hopes he’ll attend this summer’s development camp, then sign with the Wild after fulfilling the final year of his contract in the KHL. There’s no rush to sign Kaprizov because the Wild can’t lose his rights because there’s no NHL-Russia transfer agreement, Flahr said.
“He’s a good player, that’s for sure,” Flahr said.
Eriksson Ek is expected to make the full-time transition to North America after this season.
After their college seasons, it’ll be decided if Kunin, a sophomore at University of Wisconsin, and Greenway, a sophomore at Boston University, want to turn pro.
“Kunin, at the draft, said he wanted to play one more year in school and turn pro,” Flahr said. “I don’t know if that’s still the case. It’s something we’ll deal with after the season. I think both guys are probably capable of playing pro next year if they want to, but at the same time they have to mentally be ready to take that on. They’ll talk with their families and make those decisions.
“We’ll deal with that another day.”
Open Wild practice Monday
The Wild will hold a free, open outdoor practice at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Backyard Ice Rink at Braemar Arena in Edina.