2017 first-round pick has performed well at San Antonio in
third year of AHL play, could make NHL debut this weekend
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Twenty-year-old Klim Kostin has been in an NHL locker room before, been around NHL players before, but this had a different feel, a different vibe.
It was his first time with the Blues since they took him with the 31st pick in the 2017 NHL Draft during the regular season.
"It's different. A little nervous," Kostin said after practice at the Centene Community Ice Center on Thursday. "It was nervous, the practice. You want to do everything good. And when you sometimes miss the puck, you're like, 'F--.' Coach see me and I'm like, 'Oh no.'"
Kostin, who had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 14 games with San Antonio of the American Hockey League this season, had a hard time initially believing he was joining the big club. In fact, he had to double-check Rampage general manager Kevin McDonald when he got the call on Tuesday.
"AHL GM call me after game two nights ago and then just said like, 'St. Louis call you up,' and I'm like, 'Are you sure it was me?' He said, 'Yeah,'" Kostin said. "I call my dad first and then my mom second. My family and myself just waiting for this moment for like two years. I'm so excited to get a chance for call up."
The Blues were at the 12-forward minimum with no extra bodies on hand with Vladimir Tarasenko (dislocated left shoulder) and Alexander Steen (left high ankle sprain) shelved with injuries. With back-to-back games this weekend, beginning Friday at Columbus and home Saturday against Anaheim and the Rampage playing Friday and Sunday in Manitoba, there is no easy way of getting someone to St. Louis in case of a body.
And when asked if Kostin would get into action this weekend, Blues coach Craig Berube wasn't committing.
"We'll see what happens," Berube said. "We don't have any extra forwards. Back-to-back games, going on the road. We needed to get a guy up here so we're protected. Any time you're around NHL guys and you can practice in an NHL practice, you can see the pace and execution and just what it's like. It doesn't hurt.
"He's understanding about keeping his game more simple and going in straight lines a little bit more. I think before, he had a tendency of wanting to go east-west too much and he looked to make plays all the time and he would get too fancy. He's just got to keep his game simple and be a straight line player. If he does that, who knows? He's an NHL skater, NHL shot and he's a big guy. ... He's just understanding the game more. He's a young guy over here playing at a young age in the American Hockey League. That's a tough thing to do. That's a very good league down there. When you're 18 years old playing down there, that's a man's league. It's not easy for him, but he's gotten better."
Based on line rushes on Friday, Kostin, who was skating on a line with professional tryout candidates Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn, isn't slated to get into the lineup against the Blue Jackets, but could be a candidate for the home game against the Ducks.
"I don't know yet," Kostin said. "We just talk about like power play in NHL. [Berube] didn't say anything about my first game. Just work hard will bring me my chance. That's what I want to do."
Whether he plays or not, or even sticks around for an extended period will be seen yet, but Kostin has a number of guys he can lean on when it comes to being groomed to come through the organization, including fellow 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas, who was taken with the 20th pick.
"Any time a couple young guys are coming into camp both looking to make the team, we're kind of sticking beside each other and helping each other out because we know how difficult it is to make the team to begin with," Thomas said. "For me now, I have a year under my belt and I can kind of give him a little more experience, to kind of try and help him out and kind of find his way to hopefully making it.
"He had a great preseason obviously and made a name for himself. He really took a huge step closer to making it. For me, it's just helping him day-to-day. He's obviously from Russia, came from a different country. It's always hard, the language barrier and all that kind of stuff and feeling comfortable. For me, that's what I'm going to try and do. His on-ice play speaks for itself. He's an unbelievable player. For me, it's just try and make him feel more comfortable, make sure he understands everything and help him day-to-day."
Captain Alex Pietrangelo knows as well as anyone how tough it was to make it to the big club. Being a first round pick himself (No. 4 in 2008), Pietrangelo was given a nibble with the Blues two straight seasons before being sent back to juniors on each occasion.
"I went through it as an 18-, 19-year-old. It was tough," Pietrangelo said. "I think it made me a better player, made me understand the pro game a little bit better. I went back to junior, I didn't go back to the American League, but whether he plays this trip or he comes up, I don't know what their plan us, I haven't talked to Chief or Army about it, but he's only 20 years old. The more he plays down there and has success, the more confident he'll be when he's up here. I'm not saying he's not ready, but it's only a good thing when these guys are having success down there.
"Just take it and understand what they're doing is the best thing for you. It's obviously hard to think like that at the time. These organizations have invested a lot of time and money in us. They're going to do what's best for us, especially at a young age. He's got to understand that."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Robert Thomas, receiving congratulatory fists from teammates after scoring
last week at Edmonton, said he'll help fellow 2017 first-round pick Klim
Kostin as much as he can to get acclimated to the NHL.
And Kostin seems to understand it. Of course he wants to dive in head-first, both feet into the NHL waters, but no matter what the immediate plan is, he's here to absorb all the information and learn as much as possible.
"Yeah, exactly. I just want to learn every practice," Kostin said.
Blues fans are clamoring for Kostin's debut, and he's obviously anxious to perform for them, whenever that may be.
"I'm so excited to come here and see St. Louis fans too," Kostin said.