Kaprizov of Wild motivated by Robertson in race for Calder Trophy


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kirill Kaprizov said he is more driven to help the Minnesota Wild win than competing with Dallas Stars center Jason Robertson in the race for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the top rookie in the NHL. 

“I don’t think about it much, but with all the Instagram, you do see it and of course, seeing another opponent there, it helps motivate you,” the Wild forward said of Calder Trophy consideration through a translator Tuesday. “It makes you want to do better and that’s as any competitor would. But other than that, I don’t focus or think about it, to be honest.

“With today’s day and age with social media everyone has Instagram and things like that. I’m constantly getting messages [about the Calder race]. I see it everywhere. It’s hard not to notice it. … I don’t stress about it. Obviously, it’s always great to win something but for me personally the team performance is first, and any personal accolades come after that.

“For the reporters, it’s probably quite a bit of clickbait to get the ratings up, but for me personally, I really don’t think about it much.”

Kaprizov, who turned 24 Monday, leads all NHL rookies with 41 points (22 goals, 19 assists) in 47 games, two points ahead of Robertson, who has scored 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 43 games.

Kaprizov is the leading scorer for the Wild (31-11-4), who clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a 6-3 win at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday; Minnesota is in third place in the Honda West Division, one point behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche. The top four teams will qualify for the playoffs.

Video: MIN@LAK: Kaprizov scores an incredible opening goal

Minnesota hosts the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Kaprizov scored a goal against the Sharks to extend his goal streak to five games (six goals) and can become the fourth rookie to lead a team in regular-season scoring since 1993-94; the last was Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in 2016-17. Despite that, he said he’s more comfortable directing accolades toward his teammates.

“I don’t like to give myself compliments,” he said. “I don’t like to think of myself as an outlier. To be honest, at the end of the day it was a team. All the guys got together. We all played well. It was a team effort, and at the end of the day that’s really all it’s about and all I focus on, that it’s a team game and how we can get better as a team.”

Selected by the Wild in the fifth round (No. 135) of the 2015 NHL Draft, Kaprizov signed a two-year entry level contract with Minnesota on July 13, 2020, following six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he scored 230 points (113 goals, 117 assists) in 293 games with Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Salavat Yulaev Ufa and CSKA Moskva. 

He led the KHL in goals in each of his last two seasons (30 in 57 games in 2018-19 and 33 in 57 games in 2019-20 for CSKA Moskva) and as a 20-year-old scored in overtime to help the Olympic Athletes from Russia defeat Germany for the gold medal in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. 

He has carried that success into a strong first season in the NHL, but he said he’s trying to take a low-key approach in all aspects of his game.

“To be honest, obviously I’m happy, but it’s nothing I really overthink or over-do,” he said. “I’m also a little bit older than some of the other (rookies) by a couple of years, two-three years, so obviously it’s great, I’m proud, but it’s not something I really think or focus on. I just try to play my game and do the best I can every single day.”

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