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  • Top NHL Insider Picks Kaprizov To Win Major NHL Hardware

    Carlton Bloom

    Last year, Kirill Kaprizov established himself among the league's best palyers. A 47-goal, 108-point season will do wonders for your reputation. But even diehard Minnesota Wild fans might be taken aback with how Kaprizov's reputation is blowing up.


    This summer, the NHL Network named him the third-best winger in the NHL. Usually, these lists are based on reputation and vibes, rather than hardcore stats, so it's a testament to how much Kaprizov's profile is rising in the hockey world.


    As Kaprizov approaches Thursday's season opener against the New York Rangers, the dial controlling his expectations and hype keeps going up. Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet's top NHL insider, thinks he has what it takes to take over the league this year.


    Friedman makes his dark horse NHL Awards predictions in his October 11 32 Thoughts column. After eliminating "obvious candidates" from consideration, here's what he puts down as his Hart Trophy (League MVP) pick:

    This isn't a huge stretch because he got votes last year, but I'm going with Kirill Kaprizov. With
    in Los Angeles, there will be even more need for him to lift the offensive burden. He's going to have a massive year.

    Yes, the NHL's three most recent MVPs, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl, were all eliminated from consideration. Those players will be formidable candidates this year, as well. Still, Friedman picked Kaprizov over many MVP-caliber players like Cale Makar, Igor Shesterkin, and Johnny Gaudreau.


    One thing the Kaprizov For Hart train has going for it is that voters aren't fond of giving the Hart Trophy to the same players. Since 2010, only one player has won the award twice: Connor McDavid. Even going back to the year 2000, only McDavid, Alex Ovechkin (three times), and Sidney Crosby (twice) have won multiple Harts.


    If you're keeping score, that's 18 different Hart Winners in 22 seasons this century. If history holds, someone new is going to win MVP honors this year.


    So why can't it be Kaprizov, who, as Friedman notes, already has a head start with the voters? He finished seventh in Hart voting last season, with two first-place votes, four seconds, and four thirds. Again, extremely impressive considering his short track record in the league. It was the highest finish by a sophomore player since McDavid won the Hart in 2016-17.


    Certainly, Kaprizov put up MVP-caliber numbers last season. He finished fifth in the league in both goals and points last season, and there's even room for improvement with a faster start.


    He started last season with just three goals and 11 points in his first 15 games. Take his last 66 games, and he had 44 goals and 97 points. If he can keep that pace up over a full 82-game season, that's 55 goals and 120 points. For context, that's just three fewer points than McDavid's MVP season last year, and five goals behind runner-up Matthews.


    And of course, the perceived lack of talent surrounding Kaprizov should also help his case. Most observers expect Minnesota to take a step back with their cap troubles and Fiala's departure. If the Wild are just as good as last year, folks like Friedman are going to credit Kaprizov and vote in kind.


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