The Minnesota Wild have been very fortunate to have two forwards that have become star players in the last season or so. Those two, of course, being Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala. They’re both very capable forwards, as they proved this last season but is one considered more valuable than the other? To find out, they’ll have to be compared and contrasted, and then an answer can be reached.
The Wild have not been fortunate enough to have such high-caliber players in quite a while. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were great players and deserved respect, but they weren’t expected to be the type of scorers Kaprizov and Fiala currently are. They’ve had one player here and there that was a standout along the way, names like Marián Gáborík, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and other subtle names, but none can quite compare to what they have now.
The Veteran: Kevin Fiala
Fiala has been with the Wild since the second half of the 2018-19 season. He was acquired in the trade that sent Mikael Granlund to the Nashville Predators. The deal was questioned rather heavily by Wild fans and at the time, former general manager Paul Fenton received a lot of heat for it.
It turns out it was one of the better deals during Fenton’s one-year tenure that saw him ship off other players like Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, two of the Wild’s up-and-coming young forwards. All three deals were hard to swallow for Wild fans because the players seemed promising but were also stuck in ruts and needed some fresh starts. It seemed to breathe life into those players when they switched teams, especially for Fiala coming to Minnesota.
Time with the Predators
Before Fiala landed on the Wild’s roster, he spent time with a Central Division opponent, the Predators. He spent four and a half seasons there before his trade. While with Nashville, he had one breakout season in that timeframe where he played in 80 games and scored 23 goals, 25 assists, and had 48 total points.
That same season he started to show his power-play prowess as well. He wasn’t on the top of their roster just yet, but he was starting to show his true potential. He had 13 power play points and out of that whole season, he spent 183:51 minutes of it a man up.
Off to Minnesota
Fast forward one and a half seasons later, he landed with the Wild and quickly established himself as a power-play forward. He scored four points in his first 19 games with the team and spent 58:22 minutes on the power play, but he was just getting started.
The following season he played 64 games, and his even-strength stats went through the roof. He scored 23 goals and tallied career highs in both assists and points with 31 assists and 54 points. Switch to his special teams and his power-play points jumped to 18 that locked him into third on the Wild roster. 12 of those points were goals, with the other six being assists.
This last season his stats dropped off a little bit, but he also played fewer games than the previous season for various reasons. The most important thing about Fiala is that he hasn’t actually spent a full 82-game season with the Wild yet. He’s been with them for a couple of seasons that were cut short, with the same being said about his linemate Kaprizov. Fiala finally signed a deal with the Wild this offseason, a one-year contract that’ll put him as a restricted free agent once again following this coming season, but at least they signed him, something they have yet to do with Kaprizov.
Both of these players have recorded a high amount of points in some very unusual times, such as shortened seasons, unplanned pauses throughout those seasons, and players coming in and out of the roster at different times. Their performances through these unpredictable times were impressive and hopefully, they will continue this reliability in the coming seasons.
The Rookie: Kirill Kaprizov
Now, onto the player who really drew attention to the Wild this past season and that was Kaprizov, the Calder Trophy winner. He took the NHL by storm and barely slowed down to take a breath. With just one season completed in the league, there’s not much to compare with, but the sky is the limit with his potential.
Before the NHL: The Kontinental Hockey League
Before the NHL, Kaprizov played in Russia with CSKA Moskva, a team in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He spent three seasons with them before making the leap across the ocean to the United States. In his first season with CSKA Moskva, he played 46 games and scored 40 points. He only went up from there. In his second season, he played 57 games and scored 51 points. He made a dramatic jump in goals scored between the two seasons as well; in his first season, he tallied 15 goals, in his second season, he scored 30 goals. He doubled his goal totals in just one season.
In his third and final season for CSKA Moskva, Kaprizov played 57 games, once again, but this time he scored 33 goals. He also went from 51 points in his second season to 62 points in his third season. In each of those three seasons, he tallied over 20 assists as well. He did very well in Russia, but he really started to flourish when he landed in Minnesota.
Time for the NHL
Nearly five seasons after he was drafted, Kaprizov joined the Wild. He played 55 games for the Wild, averaging nearly a point per game with 27 goals and 24 assists for 51 points. What was equally impressive were his power-play points. Everyone who watched the Wild this season knew of their struggle on the power play. He scored 13 points on the power play, including eight goals.
Kaprizov lifted their power play when they really needed it. Despite him only completing one NHL season so far, his numbers are those of established veterans. If he can keep his numbers up, he’ll lead this team to the playoffs and hopefully farther.
Fiala Compared to Kaprizov
Both Fiala and Kaprizov have proven their worth to the Wild. They’re both strong forwards that can score goals and set up teammates. They’ve shown their capabilities on the power play as well as their very little time spent on the penalty kill. The two of them are very similar in both skill and the types of players they are.
They can carry the puck end to end and weave around defensemen like they’re standing still. They have the capability to create turnovers with their speed and they’re both quite accurate with their shots. Watching both of these players create opportunities, they seem like they could be the same player at times, especially since their bodies are built pretty close as well. Fiala is 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds while Kaprizov is 5-foot-9 and 201 pounds, so not very much difference in those numbers.
Which Wild Player has More Value?
Both of these players have proven they are worth a spot on an NHL team but is one more valuable than the other? If the Wild had to choose between Kaprizov and Fiala, who would they choose? Obviously, it’s hard to tell Kaprizov’s full value with just one season playing in the NHL, but that one season was jam-packed with all kinds of milestones, including winning the Calder Trophy. Fiala is a competent goal scorer and power forward as well as being young. On that note, they’re both young and have seasons left in front of them, but when it comes down to it, Kaprizov would be where the money would go.
Kaprizov would be the choice because of the sheer numbers he put up in his very first season. Not only was it his rookie season, but he did it in a season that was far from normal. The main reason he’d be chosen is his potential and, of course, his hands. He can move the puck so quickly and weave past defensemen that it’ll be interesting to see what he can do against the rest of the NHL, and not just one division. Fiala has great hands as well, but Kaprizov is just different. He sees the ice and makes the players around him better.
Why I Chose Kaprizov
It’s tough to choose between these two high-caliber players. They’re very similar and have scored a lot of points for the Wild. I’m an avid fan of both of them, but if I had to choose, it would be Kaprizov all the way.
As I stated above, the way he sees the ice and how he can move the puck sets him above the rest, even if it’s just slightly above. Thankfully, the team doesn’t have to choose between the two players just yet, the future will tell with contracts and all that, but hopefully, both players will continue outdoing their previous seasons and rack up points for the Wild.
Now that Kaprizov captured his first NHL award in the Calder Trophy, it’s onto the next award, I may be setting my sights a little high, but it would be awesome to see him contend for the Hart or Maurice Richard Trophy in seasons to come.
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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.