Thursday, October 14, 2021

Kostin continues to work himself into being everyday NHL player

2017 first-round pick said training camp "wasn't really good," will start season 
as extra forward; Blues could avoid facing MacKinnon, Landeskog out in opener

ST. LOUIS -- Don't get Klim Kostin wrong, he's more than excited to make his first NHL roster out of training camp.

"I can't be more excited," he said Thursday. "It's my goal for last four years to make (the) roster, to make the team. So yeah, so excited."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Klim Kostin (37) has work to do if he's to be a regular in the Blues lineup
despite making the roster out of training camp.

It's what he's been waiting for since being drafted with the last pick (31st overall) of the 2017 NHL. But it looks like the 22-year-old will start the season as one of the extra forwards instead of being a mainstay in the lineup.

For now. 

To crack that lineup, and he in it on a regular basis will be up to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Penza, Russia native.

When asked to describe training camp, Kostin said, "It wasn't really good. I'm just trying to (get) better after every game. Hopefully the (regular) season will be better than the preseason.
"I need to work every part of my game. There's a lot of things I need to improve."

There was plenty of promise for Kostin, who came to camp on the heels of winning the Gagarin Cup, the championship of the Kontinental Hockey League with Avangard Omsk, last season. 

Since there was no American Hockey League season last year, the Blues felt it best for Kostin to play games instead of just working with the NHL players on the taxi squad, and he did so under former NHL coach Bob Hartley.

"Bob Hartley helped me a lot," Kostin said. "He worked with me all year, watching my games after, like all my shifts after every game. He helped me a lot. He wants me to be like a two-way player, like he said, a reliable player. He teach me how to play defensively. Bob Hartley and his coaching staff, they helped me a lot.

"It was unbelievable to come to (Russia) and win the Gagarin Cup. I cannot imagine it before I go there. It was a really good for me, for (the) team. But now I have the main goal for Stanley Cup. That's what I want."

The Blues had the option of assigning Kostin again to the AHL, but feel this go around, instead of playing a fifth season there, it's best to continue to work with him here and get him ready to play more games.

Kostin has a goal and an assist in six NHL games.

"Just being up here and practicing with the team at the tempo we practice at, watching and learning in practice and obviously playing games and us working with him," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He does have a lot of talent. I think he's got to simplify his talent. His mindset has to be work first, let your skills take over after that. But we've got to get him to be a good forechecker and strong on the forecheck, strong on the puck down low below the goal lines, taking pucks to the net, getting to the net, things like that. Just keep working with him with the defensive responsibilities that come with it. He's got to be a good player without the puck. He's got to be a solid player without the puck and be in good position and know how to check."

To try and get acclimated to life in North America as a teenager living in San Antonio when the Blues had their AHL affiliate there with the Rampage, Kostin had his father living with him. Here in St. Louis, there are three fellow Russians (Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Barbashev and Pavel Buchnevich) who can help make the transition easier.

"Everybody helped me a lot," Kostin said. "I don't care how many Russian guys are on the team. It's good for me to have a couple Russian guys, but I feel comfortable without them too with the other guys."

Kostin documented on his Instagram page his workout regimen over the summer in hopes of making it all count once training camp rolled around. That process will continue now into the season in hopes of making it all work.

"I want to be faster," Kostin said. "My first step, getting speed on ice. Just work on everything, hands, the skill, be stronger on the puck. I work on everything."

* NOTES -- The Blues will be among the last teams to make their season debuts on Saturday when they open against the Colorado Avalanche.

Preparations continue in Vail, Colo. before the Blues head to Denver on Friday and Berube said things are going according to plan.

"We're going over everything here this week and touching base on every little thing," he said. "You don't want to give them too much. They need to just go out and play. You wat to play the system, but it's being aggressive, playing hard, doing all the little things right. But guys have been good. They've been working hard in practice and getting the work done, which is good."

The Blues could be catching a break with the loss potentially of two of the Avalanche's top three first-line skaters.

Nathan MacKinnon missed Colorado's opener against Chicago Wednesday in COVID-19 protocol and his status for Saturday is unknown at this point, but Gabriel Landeskog will miss the game Saturday after the NHL's Department of Player Safety suspended the Avalanche captain two games for boarding Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach.

Regardless of who the Avalanche ice for the game, the Blues are just ready to play meaningful hockey, and it so happens to be against the team that swept them out of the first round of the playoffs last season.

"Oh definitely, they're ready to play," Berube said. "It's hard. You're watching games and teams are already playing. You wish you were playing already but it is what it is."

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