Everyone who’s been following the NHL the last few months no doubt has heard of Russian star Kirill Kaprizov. More specifically, how hard the Minnesota Wild fought to sign him due to his talent for scoring goals.
The last Wild player to bring in so much hype prior to Kaprizov would have been Marian Gaborik. Sure, there have been some monumental signings for Minnesota over the years such as Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Eric Staal, but none like Gaborik.
He’s one of a few players who have lived up to the hype they bring to their team. In fact, some may wonder if Gaborik may have done even better with stronger players around him. No disrespect to his former linemates but if he could have had similar caliber players with him, he could’ve done even better.
Gaborik’s Lethal Scoring Abilities
In his rookie season, he quickly became the hero by scoring the Wild’s first-ever goal in history, but that turned out to be the only high point. The rest of the season didn’t amount to much with just 36 points scored and many probably wondered if he was worth it.
That very next season he proved himself by almost doubling his previous season totals. Scoring 67 points with 30 goals, he started what would be six straight seasons of 40 or more points. Even when the NHL was in the lockoutand he went back to play in Slovakia, he tallied more than 60 points.
What made Gaborik so good at scoring goals was his speed and ability to steal the puck off opposing players’ sticks. If he got a breakaway there was no time for goalies to react. Over his career with the Wild, he beat goalies like Marty Turco, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Henrik Lundqvist, and many more. He would skate in and take a shot so quickly it would fly by goalies.
He rapidly became a target to shut down for many teams. It even got to the point where goalies would try to stop him before he got close. He got a breakaway on future Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek and it became a highlight reel seen everywhere. Not because Gaborik scored but because of the lengths Hasek went to make sure he didn’t.
Gaborik was known for his speed with and without the puck, his ability to snap a shot before giving the goalie a chance to get set and he was never far from the net. Kaprizov hasn’t put on a Wild jersey yet but watching his highlights he seems to have a lot of the same tendencies as his predecessor.
Minnesota’s Hopes for Another Gaborik May Come True
It may be too good to be true saying Kaprizov could be as good as what Gaborik was when he played in Minnesota. It could also be the exact opposite and he may be better than anyone expects. No one can know for sure until the next season starts and Wild fans get to finally see No. 97 take the ice.
Almost 20 years after Gaborik first took the ice for the Wild, Kaprizov will be donning the jersey. After watching videos of both players, he is close to a mirror image of the Wild’s former right-wing.
The first thing fans will notice is his speed — very similar to Gaborik, he can snatch a puck off an opponent’s stick and be gone in a flash. His shot is also similar in that he can snipe it right over the goalie’s glove before they can react.
His numbers for the junior teams he played for mimic Gaborik as well — he averaged 30 goals a season and over 40 points. This last season he managed 62 points in just 57 games, averaging around a point per game, something the Wild could really use going forward. They may seem more alike than different but they do have a couple of things that make them unique.
One major difference between Gaborik and Kaprizov is their time in the penalty box. The former Wild winger spent quite a bit of time sitting in the box when he could have been out scoring goals. He sat in the box for more than 20 minutes a season.
The latter has spent very little time in the box during his junior seasons with the exception of one or two bad years. Kaprizov’s penalty box time was usually less than 16 minutes a season, one even as low as 10 penalty minutes.
When watching video of the two, they both have a similar jumpstart to their skating. They get the puck and immediately take off up the ice without a moment’s hesitation. The noticeable difference would be their size. While they’re only about two inches apart in height and 15 pounds different in weight, it is still easy to tell them apart.
Gaborik is tall and kind of lanky while Kaprizov is a little shorter and stocky with a bit broader shoulders. They also play opposite sides of the ice, Gaborik being a right-wing and Kaprizov taking the left.
Will Kaprizov Live Up to the Hype?
Gaborik’s era with the Wild is well and done; now it’s time for a new face to step up and get things going in the right direction. Kaprizov has been hyped up ever since Minnesota was able to land him in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has had plenty of time to get ready for his debut in the NHL.
Five seasons later and he’ll finally be able to show everyone what he is truly capable of. His numbers certainly support the fact that he can play with the big boys and score goals. Now, we just wait for word on what the season will look like and when it will take place, but at least the Wild finally have their future Gaborik who will hopefully take them in pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.