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Inside Wild star Kirill Kaprizov’s harrowing offseason journey back from Russia to the U.S.

Apr 26, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) skates in the third period against the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Russo
Sep 22, 2022

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Like most other Wild players and staffers, head coach Dean Evason had to follow superstar winger Kirill Kaprizov’s harrowing situation from afar this summer.

He saw the news reports around the NHL draft in July saying Kaprizov was wanted in Russia for allegedly obtaining a fake military ID card years ago. Then he saw the reports that Kaprizov’s deferment for his Russian military obligations had apparently expired. He knew Kaprizov tried to leave Russia via Dubai for the United States, only to be turned around at the airport.

Behind the scenes, Evason knew the Wild were working desperately and exhaustively at all hours with “very important people” to get Kaprizov out of Russia and back to North America.

That’s why when the Wild coach finally saw the always-smiling, often-winking and constantly bubbly Kaprizov for the first time last week at the team’s practice facility, he gave him one giant bear hug.

“We have a group text with my family, and I couldn’t wait to tell everybody: ‘I hugged Kirill today,’” Evason told The Athletic.

Evason can’t imagine how much anxiety Kaprizov must have been going through.

“The world today, we all can’t imagine what’s going on there, and we can’t believe some of the stuff that’s going on there,” Evason said. “So if you’re not in their shoes, obviously in Kirill’s shoes, in particular, we have no idea the stress that goes through it.

“I’m sure there’s still stress. I mean, he left his family behind. So we all have to be very mindful of everything and try to give him as much help as we can.