2017 first-round pick scores goal, adds assist, making a strong push to
make the opening night roster for the defending Stanley Cup champs
ST. LOUIS -- The proverbial odds still place Klim Kostin in San Antonio of the American Hockey League to start the 2019-20 season.
But the Russian 2017 first-round pick the Blues received in the trade for Ryan Reaves, who's growing into his hulking 6-foot-3, 212-pound body by the minute it seems, is trying to defy the odds; he's banging on the Blues' door, and he's banging on it very loudly, whether it be one fist or two fists.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues forward Klim Kostin (right) joins the celebration with Robby Fabbri
(left) on a goal scored by Tyler Bozak (21) on Sunday.
So loudly that coaches and management have to be hearing it.
Because they're sure seeing it.
Kostin, who wasn't originally listed in the game lineup, replaced Oskar Sundqvist in the lineup and didn't disappoint in the Blues' 5-3 preseason home-opener win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday afternoon at Enterprise Center
Kostin had a goal and an assist to boost his preseason stats to three goals and three assists in three preseason games. His goal, what turned out to be the game-winner, was a dazzling play where he had the puck in the right corner, powered his way to the net and got off a shot that Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins made a save on. The puck bounded into the left corner, and Kostin instinctively kept good positioning near the net, positioning himself in the slot. Jaden Schwartz, who also had a goal and assist, slipped a nice pass to Kostin, who quickly maneuvered to his backhand and lifted a shot into the top corner at 7 minutes 24 seconds of the third period to make it 4-3. He led the Blues in shots on goal (five) and hits (five).
"It was a good pass from Schwartzy," said Kostin of his goal, still a little shy in front of cameras. "It was a little luck for me."
To call what Kostin is doing in camp is luck would be an injustice. But t he 20-year-old is grabbing each and every opportunity to make this a tough call whether to send him down or to make a roster-altering decision.
Looking at the Blues, defending Stanley Cup champs, there weren't many, if any, job openings going into this season, not with virtually the entire roster back to make another run. But as Tyler Bozak, who centered Kostin with Robby Fabbri on a line, said, "That's why I think we are a good team because we're really deep, we've got guys that can push for jobs and guys got to play well to keep jobs. That's how it should be on a good team. That's how you want it to be."
Kostin plays with a combination of strength, skill, quick hands and grit. Yes, he has by his own admission gotten himself into penalty trouble -- he had an unfortunate tripping penalty Sunday -- with four minors in the past two games, but it's not for a lack of effort.
"He's a big body. That goal, he's strong down low," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Whether there's spots up here or not, unfortunately in this business there's going to be injuries and things are going to happen where you're going to need guys to step up. Whether they're playing for a job or not, that's up to the coaches and management, but we like what we see with him. There's always somebody watching."
Kostin hopes, and has to feel, that the Blues are watching.
"I just try to do my best and the coach believe in me," Kostin said. "He give me a chance to play and I try to do my best with my work, play hard, play physical, shoot the puck.
"More (comfortable) than last year. I don't know, I just feel more comfortable."
Kostin's first two seasons in San Antonio would hardly pique the interest of those following his career. In 133 regular-season games with the Rampage, Kostin has 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) with 174 penalty minutes, including 10 goals, 24 assists in 66 games and a team-leading 102 PIM's. Oh, and he's minus-34 (minus-28 last season) in two seasons.
"I had the chance to play with [Kostin] his first year in San Antonio and last year I played a couple games in San Antonio with him," said Blues forward Sammy Blais, who scored a highlight-reel goal of his own Sunday. "He's got everything. He's young and I think he's going to be a really good player.
"He's big, he's strong and he's an offensive player. He's got the poise. You can see it on his goal tonight. Not many guys can do that. ... You saw on his goal today. He's only 20 years old and he's a tank. He's big, he's got good hands and he can be physical too. He's going to be a really good player for us here."
Kostin's release and quick hands are ones that catch one's eye, and is a reminder of a familiar face, one the Blues have seen regularly here since 2012.
"He shoots the puck like Vladi," Pietrangelo said of Vladimir Tarasenko. "Maybe I need to go to a Russian hockey school because they shoot the puck really good. He's got a heck of a shot and he's strong down low. He's just going to keep getting better with age.
"That's the same thing when you watch Vladi. People see a big body and don't expect them to be able to skate and make the plays that he makes, so it's a tough combo to handle."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Klim Kostin, a 2017 first-round pick by the Blues, is making a strong push
to make the opening night roster this season.
Kostin is among the 36 players remaining in camp (the Blues assigned forwards Robby Jackson, Michael Vecchione and Dakota Joshua, defenseman Mitch Reinke and goalie Evan Fitzpatrick to the Rampage Sunday evening). He'll obviously get into one or more of the remaining four preseason games the Blues, who are 3-1 in preseason play, have left. All he can do is play and let the chips fall where they may.
"I just play how the coach say, play simple, dump the puck in and go work," Kostin said. "Nothing else."
In the win Sunday, Brayden Schenn had three assists, Pietrangelo, Schwartz and Kostin each had a goal and assist and Jordan Binnington went the distance and made 22 saves. Pietrangelo, Schenn and Steen each made his preseason debut.