The Bruin That Got Away: Kirill Kaprizov

When people talk about the 2015 NHL Draft, the obvious narrative that stands out surrounding the Boston Bruins is the fact that they had three consecutive picks in the first round, none of which were used to select Mathew Barzal. It’s a fair point, even if it has been talked about ad nauseam for almost three years.

NEWARK, NJ – FEBRUARY 24: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders controls the puck in front of Jesper Bratt #63 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

While the Bruins may have felt their draft board was worth sticking to regardless of Barzal falling to them, there’s another move they made that draft that is rarely talked about if discussed at all. When the team traded away their fifth-round pick in 2015 to the Minnesota Wild on the second day of the draft, little was thought about it at the time. After all, the Bruins would go on to make 10 picks that year alone.

Selecting three times in the first and second-rounds while also picking in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh-rounds that year, trading away the 135th selection for a future pick just seemed insignificant at best. What isn’t mentioned, however, is the fact that the player taken with that pick was Russian forward Kirill Kaprizov.

Kaprizov Was a Draft Blunder by the Bruins

In all fairness to Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney and his scouts, the Bruins were far from the only team to miss on Kaprizov. The 5-foot-9 winger had scored four goals and eight points in 31 games with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the KHL in his draft year and hadn’t done enough to justify selecting him given his small stature. Still, the Wild took a shot on Kaprizov and it’s looking more and more like that risk is going to pay off in the end.

In 53 games in 2015-16, Kaprizov, 18 at the time, scored 11 goals and 27 points in 53 games. It wasn’t until the following two seasons that Kaprizov would really start to turn heads in North America, however, when he would score 20 goals and 42 points in 49 games as a 19-year-old last season with Ufa Salavat Yulayev. He’d follow that up by recording 15 goals and 43 points in 48 games this season with CSKA Moscow.

Kirill Kaprizov
(Kirill Kaprizov during a 2017-18 KHL game. Photo:

In addition to his impressive output in the KHL, Kaprizov’s Olympic performance this season with OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia) was enough to turn even the most casual fans head. Scoring five goals and nine points in six games culminating in a Gold Medal win, Kaprizov showed off his creative and dynamic offense that likely made fans of the Wild drool and fans of other NHL teams wish they could look forward to a player like that joining their team one day.

Though the Wild may have made the right call in drafting Kaprizov, they probably won’t be seeing him scorch the NHL scoring race anytime soon after he signed a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow last offseason. The Wild simply didn’t do enough to motivate him to leave the KHL and sign an NHL contract.

Considering the Wild are clinging on to third-place in the Central Division, a dynamic player like Kaprizov could have only helped them in this playoff race.

Missing on Kaprizov Acceptable but Hard to Swallow

In the end, the Bruins simply didn’t see Kaprizov as a future NHL player. If they did, they would have certainly spent the fifth-round draft capital on him with an eye to the future. Another telling fact is that the Bruins have drafted only one Russian player since 2011. That player happened to be Alex Khokhlachev, and we all know how that situation ended up.

Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev
Boston Bruins center Alexander Khokhlachev (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

With the exception of backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the amount of Russians to play in Boston in the last decade are few and far between for whatever reason. Whether it comes down to an inability to scout Russian prospects or the concern that Russian players need to be courted so heavily to join the NHL rather than the KHL in many instances, the fact remains that the Bruins have simply not dipped into that prospect well very often in recent years.

While Kaprizov may not be joining the Wild anytime soon, the fact that he has intentions of joining the NHL in the future make him a valuable asset for the Wild. Still only 20 years old and not set to be 21 until the end of April, Kaprizov would be near the top of the list for the Bruins prospect pool in terms of his potential ceiling.

Kirill Kaprizov
(Kirill Kaprizov battling for the puck during a 2017-18 KHL game. Photo:

That’s saying a lot considering the Bruins have one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire NHL.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but it’s still tough to look back on the 2015 draft and see Kaprizov’s name at 135 and not wonder what might have been. The Bruins are one of the best teams in the NHL this season and are fighting hard for a President’s Trophy and the top-seed heading into what could be a very lengthy postseason run.

Despite their success, however, one can’t help but imagine how Kaprizov could have bolstered this team had he been in the plans this year or in the future.

Ryan Donato Alex Iafallo
Ryan Donato (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

With a player like Ryan Donato also set to make the jump to the NHL roster sooner than later, the thought of both Donato and Kaprizov – two young players who dominated against men at the Olympics, both joining the Bruins around the same time just seems too good to be true. Yet, it could have been possible if the Bruins saw in Kaprizov what the Wild did three years ago.

Though Kaprizov almost fell right into their laps, the Bruins will have to live with the fact that they missed on a player with an incredibly high ceiling. The draft is anything but an exact science, but that doesn’t mean this one still doesn’t sting regardless.