MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Kirill Kaprizov roared onto the Minnesota hockey scene in a flash.

The 23-year-old rookie came to the Minnesota Wild this season after playing professionally in Russia for the last five years.

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Last weekend, the Wild played the Arizona Coyotes for an afternoon game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. But photographer Nick Wosika’s game day started well before puck drop.

“When I go meet people and people find out what I do, I automatically have the coolest job ever. And I don’t disagree with that,” Wosika said.

What began as a side gig quickly turned into his only income source when his position was eliminated at his day job. He was forced to make photography a full time job.

“When that happens, I just stopped saying no to all the jobs I was saying no to, and just did everything I could possibly do,” Wosika said. “School photos, or pets, or marketing photos.”

Nick Wosika (credit: CBS)

He was hired as a freelancer by the Upper Deck sports card company after cold calling the photo supervisor.

Kaprizov made his U.S. debut with the Wild in January, and he’s quickly become a rising star in the league. The rookie netted his first NHL hat trick on March 12.

“He’s living up to the hype,” Wosika said. “We haven’t had a player like that probably ever. It’s fun to watch and it’s really fun to photograph.”

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Mike Nelson runs Absolute Sports Cards in Savage. He says the hype surrounding Kaprizov’s soon-to-be-released Upper Deck rookie card is immense, and the industry as a whole has seen a boom over the last two to three years, especially during the pandemic.

“We started five years ago and it’s gradually just gotten bigger and bigger,” Nelson said. “And there’s more people in it than ever before. So they’re investing, they’re trading, you know … it’s just pretty fun.”

Nelson’s shop has a launch event for the release of the card on Wednesday.

“He’s very impressive, and his cards are just taking off,” he said.

(credit: Nick Wosika/Upper Deck)

Which is all good news for Wosika, because his photo was chosen to be the very rookie card at the center of the conversation.

“You get that photo in a newspaper or magazine, it gets recycled the next day,” Wosika said. “A card, you get the right player and they’re gonna cherish that thing and they’re gonna hold it forever.”

Wosika says perseverance and out-hustling other photographers in a city already saturated with photo talent has got him to this level.

“That’s how I forged ahead in photography, by asking I live my life by a series of personal policies, and one is the answer is already no, so you might as well ask, right?” he said.

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Absolute Sports Cards is holding a launch party for Kaprizov’s rookie card Wednesday. An individual card could go for hundreds of dollars. Or, you may get lucky and find one in a $20 pack of cards.