LOS ANGELES — Much of rookie general manager Bill Guerin’s tenure with the Minnesota Wild is going to be defined by his ability to get top prospect Kirill Kaprizov to the Twin Cities.
No matter how bad things have gotten for the Wild the past couple of seasons, Kaprizov has offered a glimmer of hope from 5,000 miles away.
A fifth-round draft pick in 2015, the 22-year-old Russian sniper has been more of unicorn than anything else. While he’s developed into one of the best players in his homeland’s Kontinental Hockey League — he currently is second in the league with 13 goals — many have wondered whether he is ever going to come to America to play in the NHL.
Which is a big reason Guerin is flying to Moscow at the end of the month. Guerin plans to have dinner with Kaprizov and his agent, Dan Milstein, and watch the young prospect play a game in person. Guerin said his expectation is for Kaprizov to debut for the Wild next season.
“He really wants to come over here next season,” the Wild GM said. “I have no concerns about him playing and having success.”
But Guerin wants to manage expectation, both outward and inward.
Because the Wild haven’t had a game-breaker since Marian Gaborik left a decade ago, there already have been lofty expectations placed on Kaprizov as the future of the franchise. It’s hard not to get excited about him after watching highlights of him in action. He is worth the price of admission whenever he takes the ice.
“There’s going to be an adjustment period,” Guerin said. “There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle that we need, and he’s one of them. But I don’t want it all put on him to where we throw him out on the ice and everything’s fixed. That’s too much on one person.”
That’s something Guerin wants to stress to Kaprizov, too.
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a player,” Guerin said. “That’s why we see some guys at the (trade) deadline, they go to wherever they’re going and they struggle. They put so much pressure on themselves. I just want him to be able to come in and just have a lot of support.”
Greg Pateryn hasn’t played this season as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, but it looks as if he could be practicing as soon as this week.
“He’s doing well,” Guerin said. “He’s progressing.”
His potential return to the lineup will force the Wild to make some decisions on the blue line. It’s hard to take Brad Hunt and Carson Soucy out of the lineup right now, and Nick Seeler still offers value as someone who can play in a pinch.
That means the Wild likely will carry a couple of extra defensemen for awhile.
“That’s the plan right now,” Guerin said. “At least for right now.”
Marcus Foligno went down with a lower-body injury last week, and he could miss more time than originally expected.
After being classified as day to day, Guerin noted it could be a little longer than that.
Week to week?
“It’s probably a little closer to that,” Guerin said. “Which really (stinks) because he’s having a great season.”