Saturday, February 22, 2020

Kyrou still learning on the fly, gaining traction with playing experience in NHL

Offensively-gifted forward scored dazzling goal in Dallas Friday, grasping 
concept that patience, hard work will continue to grow second-round pick

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It was not that long ago that Blues coach Craig Berube was dispensing some tough love upon Jordan Kyrou.

It's a situation where Berube and the coaching staff went through much of the same growing areas with Robert Thomas at times last season, and it's been Kyrou's turn to get a dose of reality and what life can be like getting your feet wet in the NHL.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Jordan Kyrou (33) moves the puck along in a recent game 
against Pavel Zacha (right) and the New Jersey Devils.

That tone changed on Tuesday when Berube thought Kyrou had played his best game against the New Jersey Devils, and for Kyrou, it's only 39 games into his NHL career.

The jury is still out on the 2016 second-round pick, and even though the ice time hasn't been reflective on Kyrou's recent play, the Toronto native seems to be grasping not just being a gifted offensive talent in this league, but one that can be more of a well-rounded player that will help push his career along the proper path.

He played just 9 minutes 21 seconds on Friday, the fewest of any skater in a 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, but the effectiveness Kyrou, 21, left on the ice had people remembering the things he can do: skate, razzle and dazzle.

Ask Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who's still looking for his skates after Kyrou quickly darted around him and whipped a shot past Ben Bishop's blocker to give the Blues a 3-0 lead in the second period.

This is the kind of talent Kyrou possesses, and it's all about the speed and the skill. It's never been in question.

"Quick reaction. ... He's lethal," Blues forward Alexander Steen said of Kyrou. "He's been getting a lot of chances lately. It's a matter of time before those go in for him. It did tonight.

"Playing unbelievable hockey. Smart, quick, getting into holes. I think he's playing a lot tighter now to the other four trying to stay in the mix a little bit more. He's grown a lot. I think he's playing tremendous hockey right now, very smart hockey. He's playing a very mature game and he's getting rewarded for it.

"He's a smart kid."

That's the part that is starting to gain some steam, and the part that needs to continue to trend in the right direction, playing tighter and staying in plays, playing both ends of the ice, making smart decisions with and without the puck. 

Kyrou, who has been used to being 'the guy' at practically every level he's played at providing loads of offense, including back-to-back seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League in 2016-17 and 2017-18 where he had seasons of 94 points (30 goals, 64 assists) and 109 points (39 goals, 70 assists), has had his share of learning curves; he's not used to being a healthy scratch, but here, he has been.

And when called upon, whether the Blues play him for nine minutes, or he gets those 13, 14, 15 minutes a night, the best way to gain more ice time is to keep making an impact in games.

"I'm just staying positive in my head," Kyrou said. "Obviously we have a really good team, so whenever I get out there, I just got to do what I can to help the team win. That's what I felt like I've been doing.

"(The) biggest thing for me right now is just focusing on just competing every single shift and just playing hard. That's the biggest thing me and Chief have talked about."

This is what Berube is known to do well, not just communicate in general, but communicate with young players and keep them from mentally and physically losing confidence. Instead of tearing their confidence down, Berube has been laying out a course of action for Kyrou, with that tough love in mind, but helping build this momentum that's been gaining steam the last handful of games or so.

"Yeah, he’s learning. He’s learning on the fly," Berube said of Kyrou. "We do things differently here than what he’s done in the past at other places and he’s learning. And he’s a smart kid.

"I thought he was good [Friday]. He made a nice play on the first goal for sure, and scoring that second goal. He’s hanging onto the puck. He’s battling for it. It was a heavy game tonight, so it was good to see him have a good game in this type of atmosphere tonight."

In the past three games, Kyrou's seen his scoring chances spike. He's put eight shots on goal and has dazzled with the puck on his stick to the point that has Blues fans on the edge of their seats.

"It feels good," Kyrou said. "I think the whole team has had a lot of chances the past couple games. We've run into some hot goalies. It was good for us to get that win today.

"The biggest thing is just compete. That's obviously what our team's built around. That's my biggest thing is just focusing on competing and winning the small areas on the ice."

Kyrou couldn't learn better those traits than playing with a couple grizzled vets like Steen and Tyler Bozak, who have played a combined 1,735 regular-season games.

"They talk to me a lot and it's definitely good to play with them," Kyrou said. "They're both really good players, really smart players so it's just easy to play with them.

"I don't really ask (them) questions. We just talk and communicate about stuff that's happening on the ice and just play as we can make stuff (happen).

"I definitely feel the more I play, the more comfortable I get obviously. Keep competing, keep competing and that builds confidence as well."

Steen said they tend to leave Kyrou alone and allow his game to evolve unless he asks.

"If it occurs, yeah, but he's an extremely smart kid," Steen said. "He's soaking everything in right now. Like I said, he's growing every day and it's really cool to see. I think his competitiveness has gone up and he's hungry. Today he got rewarded, great goal he scored today."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Jordan Kyrou (33) moves the puck past Winnipeg forward
Mason Appleton (82) in a recent game at Enterprise Center. 

Kyrou is not going to lobby for the ice time; he won't be the one knocking on Berube's door making the pitch to play more. That's something he can't control. What he can control is his worth ethic on the ice and being someone that the coaching staff notices on a regular basis moving forward, and that's why he needs to stay patient.

"It's tough, but I'm a young guy and all the young guys go through that and just got to realize that whenever I get out there, I've just got to play my game and play hard," Kyrou said. "That's the biggest thing. Stay positive and keep going.

"We've been playing real good hockey in the last five, six games. We just need to keep that up and keep competing, keep playing our game."

Kyrou's name has been brought up in the past in trade rumors, and not just this season with the trade deadline looming at 2 p.m. (CT) on Monday but in the past. General manager Doug Armstrong has been unwilling to move him in the past, and judging by his recent play, it'll make it tough for the Blues to move him now, or at any point.

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