The Minnesota Wild have been an NHL team for two decades, but that’s been long enough to make an impact on the All-Star Game. Kirill Kaprizov is headed to All-Star Game this year, but here are some highlights of Wild All-Star players in the past.
In 2003, Marian Gaborik was chosen as the first player to represent the Wild at the NHL All-Star games. Gaborik was the first racer in the Fastest Skater competition and managed a 13.713 second time for one lap around the rink. That time stood through five competing players, and Gaborik ended up with the win. Not only did Gaborik beat the Wild’s current GM, Billy Guerin, who was representing the Dallas Stars, but Gaborik is still the only player representing the Wild to win an individual skills competition.
Minnesota hosted the All-Star Game in 2004, combining the legacy of the Minnesota North Stars with the current Wild team. In a first for the All-Star Game, the special jerseys were inspired by the team hosting the games. For the first time, white was not used in the design. Instead, the Eastern Conference wore “Minnesota Wheat” (cream) colored jerseys with red trim, while the Western Conference wore “Forest Green” jerseys with cream trim.
Dwayne Roloson and Filip Kuba represented the Wild at the All-Star Game in 2004, but other familiar faces were involved. Between 2002 and 2009, a YoungStars game played between rookies and top prospects was a part of the All-Star weekend. The two YoungStars teams in 2004 were coached by former North Stars players, Lou Nanne and Tom Reid.
Unfortunately, not much was happening for the Wild at the All-Star Game from 2005 through 2014. The team was represented in separate years by Brian Rolston, Nicklas Backstrom, Brent Burns, and Martin Havlat. Mikko Koivu was supposed to represent the Wild in 2009 but had to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.
The next notable year for the Wild was 2015, when Ryan Suter helped set a record that still stands. The quickest back-to-back goals in All-Star Game history were scored eight seconds apart. Suter scored the first one, while Claude Giroux scored the second.
Things were somewhat quiet again from 2016 through 2020. Ryan Suter represented the Wild one more time. Eric Staal did so twice, and Devan Dubnyk three times. Bruce Boudreau was also chosen as a coach for the Central Division team in 2017. But in general, there wasn’t much buzz around Wild players at the All-Star Game.
Then 2022 rolled around, and Minnesota finally had another bonafide superstar player to represent them. Kirill Kaprizov was smack dab in the middle of another outstanding season after winning the Calder Trophy in 2021. As a new top name in the league, Kaprizov was selected to enter the Breakaway Challenge. Starting in 2008, a handful of players were selected each year to put on a show, being silly, skillful, or a mix of both during a breakaway.
Kaprizov ended up paying homage to one of his childhood icons, Alex Ovechkin, by taking off his jersey to show he was wearing an Ovechkin jersey. His skates sported yellow laces, and he grabbed a helmet with a tinted visor. Kaprizov even took his shot with the opposite hand because Ovechkin is right-handed while Kaprizov shoots lefty. Even with the opposite side and a different stick, Kaprizov easily put the puck into the net and celebrated with Ovechkin’s famous Hot Stick celly. Unfortunately, Ovechkin was not at the game because he was in COVID-19 protocol, but he commented on the breakaway on Twitter.
Watching Kaprizov last year was fun, mainly because he had Cam Talbot along for the ride. This year, despite a heavy fan campaign to vote Kaprizov’s best friend Mats Zuccarello onto the team, Kaprizov will be going it alone. He’s already shown that his mastery of English has come a long way. This new skill, along with his fun personality, could mean some fun moments. Either way, Kaprizov has undoubtedly earned the right to be called an All-Star.