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  • Boldy Is Starting To Challenge Kaprizov's "Best Player" Status

    Tony Abbott

    Is Matt Boldy the best player on the Minnesota Wild? You can't say that right now. Not after Kirill Kaprizov took the league by storm with 108 points last season and is generating Hart Trophy buzz.


    But wow, he sure looked like it on Opening Night. Kaprizov had a strong night offensively, with an assist and four dangerous shots. However, Boldy stole the show -- at least for people searching for optimism in a 7-3 beatdown. Boldy scored twice on three shots and showed he can take over a line even without Kevin Fiala.



    Sure, that might feel hollow in a 7-3 blowout, but you can hardly blame Boldy. He was one of six Wild players to drive play last night, controlling nearly 70% of the expected goal share. That helped him be one of just four players not to get scored on for the evening. You can't say he didn't do his job.


    Boldy already came into the year with a strong reputation. His breakout debut with Fiala saw him score 39 points in 47 games, and fans and media took notice. The consensus is that he is probably, already at age 21, the second or third-best forward on the Wild.


    Which, somehow, still means he's underrated.


    This isn't an over-the-top reaction to one game in October, nor are we about to tell you Kaprizov is somehow deficient. Kaprizov's a great player. It's just that Boldy is on track to be equally as valuable and impactful. And if Opening Night was a taste of what's to come, maybe even better.


    Any skepticism surrounding that statement is likely going to come from the fact that we're comparing a 21-year-old to a finished product. Kaprizov, 25, has 137 NHL games under his belt, a 100-point season, and many more accolades in the KHL. By contrast, Boldy has only played in 48 games. If you add his AHL totals, he has just 72 games of pro hockey under his belt.


    So let's not compare Boldy's accomplishments to Kaprizov's as a finished product. It's not totally apples-to-apples. Instead, let's look at Boldy's first 48 games in the NHL, and stack them up to Kaprizov's.



    After his two Opening Night goals, Boldy's production matches Kaprizov's point-for-point. Kaprizov has the edge in goal-scoring, but it's hard to argue that Boldy hasn't been just as impressive, if not more so, through this stage of their careers.


    The above Tweet points out that Boldy's ice time is much lower than Kaprizov's through 48 games. To compare them, you have to start with the biggest difference between the two rookie-ish seasons -- the age gap. Kaprizov made his NHL debut at 23, and Boldy made his at 20.


    What Kaprizov did that season was impressive for a rookie at any age. But compare his scoring at age 23 to the rest of the NHL at that age, and it's elite but not the tippy-top of the pile. Kaprizov scored 3.04 points per hour. Compare that to all 23-year-olds since 2007-08, and that ranks 35th.


    Nothing to sneeze at, of course, and he now ranks seventh among players aged 23 to 25 with 3.73 points per hour. He's absolutely elite, but even he wasn't KIRILL KAPRIZOV through his first 48 games.


    Now let's look at Boldy. He averages 3.32 points per hour through 48 games. If you stack him up with every NHLer through their age-21 season since 2007-08, he ranks fifth. The names ahead of him? Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin.


    Think of all the elite scorers who passed through this league in that time. Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Leon Draisaitl, and Nikita Kucherov. Boldy's looking down at all those players, and many, many more.


    When it comes to Boldy as a 5-on-5 force, he's currently peerless. Let's look at his 3.13 5-on-5 points per hour compared to everyone else through age-21. Boldy is sitting on top of the whole NHL. That's the whole NHL since 2007-08. That's above Crosby, Malkin, McDavid, Ovechkin, and — we can not stress this enough — literally everyone else.



    17 career goals don't seem like much, but in 740 career minutes? Yeah, that's a ton. 14 of them have come at 5-on-5, where he's played a total of 594 minutes. Do the math, and it's 1.41 goals per hour. Only Jake Guentzel, Ovechkin, and Matthews surpassed it through age-21.


    So, it's clear that what Boldy is doing is extremely special for someone his age. Now that we've established that, let's bring this back to Minnesota, and specifically, his informal, unknowing duel with Kaprizov.


    Take out Kaprizov's rookie season and only compare them since the start of the 2021-22 season. Even then, Boldy is absolutely Kaprizov's peer when it comes to scoring, at least at 5-on-5. Going back to per-hour scoring, Kaprizov has a very slight edge on Boldy (3.19 to 3.13). Interestingly enough, though, Boldy's actually ahead in goals per hour, with a 1.41 to 1.29 advantage.


    The biggest gap between the two, then, is special teams. Kaprizov is a power play wizard, even on a team that's had an awful power play otherwise. Still, put them on a level playing field minutes-wise, and the two stars are closer than you think.



    According to Natural Stat Trick, Kaprizov averaged 3:18 of ice time per game on the power play last year, nearly a full minute more than Boldy (2:21). Throw in 34 extra games, and yeah, of course Kaprizov had a 31-10 edge in points. Do the per-hour scoring again, though, and Kaprizov's 6.93 points aren't much more than Boldy's 5.41.


    Don't look now, but both got over four minutes of power play time in Thursday's game. Boldy will get the opportunity to fatten up on the power play, too.


    Sure, the Wild have both players under team control for quite some time. There's not going to be a point where the Wild have to decide which one to keep, so long as they keep their salary cap situation clean after the worst of the buyout penalties. Maybe it doesn't matter who's better.


    Still, Boldy is proving night after night that he belongs to be in the same conversations as Kaprizov. Is 48 games a lot? Definitely not, but we didn't need that much time to realize Kaprizov was something special. It's time for us to recognize that Boldy isn't merely just a great young player. He just might be one of the NHL's elite players right now.

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