With the current NHL season frozen and in jeopardy, why not look at possibilities for next year’s season? Over the course of this pandemic, I will predict a breakout star for every team in the 2020-2021 NHL season.
To make this clear, a breakout player can be any player under the age of 26. He could have played in the NHL for multiple years. The player could have never exceeded 40 points IN the National Hockey League. Lastly, the player has to have been drafted by an NHL franchise.
The first team that I will dive into is the Minnesota Wild. The state of hockey has seen their beloved team achieve mediocrity year and year out. The roster is one of the older ones in the league and consists of some veteran players who have already played their best hockey. These players include Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, and Devin Dubnyk. There are also a group of early to mid-twenty year olds who have potential, but have not come through yet. Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, and Kevin Fiala fit under this category. Fiala was having his “breakout” year before the pause with 23 goals and 31 helpers, so he will not qualify for the running. The others have ability to have breakout years next year, but at this time do not have the best chance as another player in the organization.
The Wild are in desperate need of a superstar forward who can be expected to put up 80-90 points a season. They have a temporary right-hand man in Kevin Fiala, and supporting forwards in Kunin, Eriksson Ek, and Greenway. A superstar would lift all these players to be better and would lift the franchise out of mediocrity. The good news is that they have a 23-year old in their organization that can be the answer. His name is Kirill Kaprizov and he will emerge as a young star for the Wild next year.
The young Russian was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL draft by Minnesota. He currently plays for CSKA Moskva in the KHL in which he was averaging over a point per game including 33 goals. As many know, the KHL is the second-best league in the world, and it is unusual to see players exceed a point per game stat line. Kaprizov is so dynamic with or without the puck in the offensive zone. He has a lightning quick release keeping goaltenders on their heels. About a year ago, he was playing for the Russian National team against the United States and received a pass from Nikita Gusev on a 2 on 1 and deposited the puck into the net. It reminded me of Patrick Kane’s OT winner against the Kings in 2013 when Toews fed him a one timer on a 2 on 1. Kaprizov seems to have the zip on the puck that you only see from the NHL’s best.
The 5-10, 200-pound talent will get into a situation where he can succeed right away. He will have the most natural talent on the Wild next year which will earn him a top line role. This probably means he’s on the first power play unit which can stack up points quickly. Not only will Kaprizov be that breakout player the Wild need, I predict he pots 25 goals. This would be a big accomplishment with the adjustment he will endure playing in North America. The Wild will be better next year, and several years to come with Kaprizov leading.
Next article: Which player will breakout for the Chicago Blackhawks next year?