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Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov talks playoffs, highlight-reel goals, and Calder Trophy race with Jason Robertson

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Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov already seems to be wise beyond his years.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday, the 24-year-old Russian was asked about the Calder Trophy race. It’s no secret that Dallas Stars rookie Jason Robertson has lit up the NHL this season, just like Kaprizov, and the Wild sensation saw right through the question.

“For the reporters, it’s probably a bit of clickbait to get the ratings up,” Kaprizov said with a smile through a translator. “For me personally, I really don’t think about it much.”

Then Kaprizov pivoted and took the bait, noting that Robertson inserting himself into the Calder conversation has provided a proverbial kick in the butt for him over the past couple of weeks. As much as he has tried to ignore the hype, the day and age of social media makes that difficult.

“With all the Instagram, you do see it, and of course, seeing another opponent there, it helps motivate,” Kaprizov said. “It makes you want to do better.”

That has played out in real time as Kaprizov has taken his game to another level. He is riding a five-game goal streak and nearly broke Twitter with a highlight-reel goal against the Los Angeles Kings over the weekend.

Asked about that specific move — he passed the puck between his legs to himself, then finished with a wrist shot from in close — Kaprizov admitted even he has watched the replay a handful of times since then.

“I’ve done that in the past, and it’s never really resulted in a goal,” he said. “This was pretty unique.”

When he’s not dazzling on the ice, Kaprizov really isn’t doing too much. He lives alone in a high-rise apartment in Minneapolis and says he doesn’t get out often. That’s understandable considering the Wild have played a game pretty much every other night for the past couple of months.

“This season is very much rink, home, sleep,” he said. “You haven’t really had a lot of free time. It’s kind of been a unique situation.”

When he does get out from time to time, he has mostly gone unnoticed.

“You’re wearing a mask or wearing a hat,” Kaprizov said. “I think it’s hard to recognize anyone on the street. It’s happened a couple times where someone’s like, ‘Hey, are you a Wild player?’ ”

As for feeling homesick, Kaprizov said he misses mother’s cooking and friends from back home in Russia most of all. He has leaned on his teammates for support this season and noted that his English has improved because of them.

“It’s definitely gotten better,” Kaprizov said. “I’m starting to speak a little bit better in the locker room. I feel a lot more comfortable with the guys talking and listening and understanding. Maybe sometimes outside the locker room maybe I tend to get a little shy, but overall it’s going a lot better, and I’m slowly starting to pick up a lot.”

That’s only going to help him feel more comfortable as the Wild push toward the playoffs.

“We need to continue to play at a high level and get ourselves prepared and ready so that we can come into the playoffs hot,” Kaprizov said. “Just focusing on these next nine games to make sure we come into the playoffs with the right attitude and the right mindset.”

Alright, so back to the original question: How does he feel about the Calder Trophy race?

“I see it everywhere, so it’s hard not to notice it,” Kaprizov said. “I don’t really think about it too much. I don’t stress about it. It’s obviously always great to win something, but for me personally, the team performance is first and any personal accolades come after that.”

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