The St. Louis Blues were very excited when they had an opportunity to make some moves and draft Klim Kostin. It may still be awhile before he sticks in the NHL, but he’s already got the mentality of a pro now.
When the St. Louis Blues drafted Klim Kostin with the final pick of the first round in 2017, it got a decent amount of people excited. Many of us did not know who he was, but after a little research, you started pondering the possibilities.
Kostin was ranked as high as a potential lottery pick. According to an interview he did with Russian website Sport-Express and translated by The Hockey Writers, Kostin’s injury problems and age made some teams a little gun shy.
Regardless of what happened, he is with the Blues organization now. There seems to be a lot of polishing that needs to be done with him, but the skill is there. More importantly, the mentality is there.
Too often you get guys with boat loads of skill, but they don’t have the mentality to be a true NHL player. Kostin seems to be the exact opposite. He’s got the mentality of a pro already. Now, he just needs everything else to catch up to the same level.
Below we’ll discuss some of the interesting points made during the interview. While there is nothing Earth-shattering, it does give a good window into the mind of this young player.
Note: AS is the interviewer, Alexei Schevchenko and KK is Kostin.
"AS: The NHL is a whole other level.KK: I’m ready for that. Of course I understand that I need a lot of work, but I’m working hard because I want to play in the NHL. I really want to try breathing that air this year already.AS: Lately you don’t have a lot of minutes in the AHL, and also haven’t the best stats.KK: I’m ready to explain what’s going on. The fact is that the Blues don’t have their own farm team. San Antonio is now primarily helping [the] Colorado [Avalanche]. At the start of the season I was playing many minutes and had good stats, but then the Avalanche assigned some players and I have been moved down in the depth chart. I don’t play on the power play now. Nothing strange.AS: What does the coach tell you?KK: He says that I’m doing everything well and that all is good. Simply the situation is this and I can’t change it."
That part right there already excites me. The kid knows – or at least feels – he is good enough to take on the NHL challenge right now. However, he’s also smart enough to know he has some growing to do and does not seem afraid to pay a couple dues along the way.
He’s got a very even keeled mentality with the San Antonio situation as well. A stereotypical, whiny brat would be complaining that he’s better than this player or that and it’s all the coach’s fault for not realizing it. Instead, Kostin realized that it is not an ideal situation, but the business side of it is dictating his playing time and not any maliciousness on the part of the organization.
That, right there, speaks to someone with years of wisdom instead of an 18 year old. Many 18 year olds with the talent Kostin potentially has would be complaining about their lack of ice time and they deserve this or that. Kostin is just taking it all in stride.
On a separate note, Kostin is quickly picking up a reputation as a fighter. He threw fists with fellow Blues prospect Wade Megan recently.
Kostin does not care for that reputation. However, again at a young age, he’s already thinking that he’ll do it if the situation warrants it.
"AS: You already fought twice in the AHL.KK: And I never was the initiator. I also fought while playing with the Blues in the pre-season.AS: And then a lot of people started saying that the Blues got a player who can both score and fight.KK: Well, you know what was the last time I fought? It was still in the MHL. I don’t know why someone decided that I will constantly fight. But of course, I’m ready in case of dirty plays from the opposition."
One of the more interesting parts of the interview was a discussion about Kostin falling down the draft board. Kostin tells that he was given assurances by Tampa, Calgary and Boston that they would select him if available. Clearly they did not and apparently, he received the stereotypical Cuban baseball player treatment regarding his age.
"AS: In the end Tampa didn’t pick you. And what about the other teams?KK: I got no explanation. I frankly think that those teams already determined their candidates and didn’t want to change their plans. And all of those talks…AS: What talks?KK: That my age was rewritten. Even during the draft I’ve been asked about my age.AS: Well, you can tell me your secret age now.KK: I was born on May 5, 1999. My age was never rewritten. I underwent a complete examination. People went to [my hometown] Penza, gathered all the documents. All is in good order, but somewhat this history appeared again during the draft and maybe it had its role."
It’s interesting that this would even pop up. Who knows if any of the NHL teams actually took it into consideration, but despite all the flaws we hear about in the news, Russia never struck me as a place with undocumented children.
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I understand the worry that something might be falsified, but in the end you should pick someone because of their talents. You should not be afraid of that person because someone else might have doctored their documents.
Ultimately, that part may not have played as big a role in his drop as the injury. Kostin does not hold back with his frustration there.
"AS: Your move to North America was unexpected, also because of your injury. You pretty much didn’t play at the KHL. How did you decide to move?KK: I would have never left Russia if Dynamo let me play. But, last year, they made a clown out of me. They dressed me for the game just to sit the whole time on the bench. I wasn’t asking to play on the first line or to play on the special teams, but I could well play on the fourth line. I played six minutes once, when [former Boston Bruins draftee] Martins Karsums picked up a ten-minute penalty. But in all the other games I played two minutes.AS: Now about your injury.KK: It’s a very long history. We were playing against Canada, an opponent tried to hit me against the board, we were going full speed and I couldn’t do anything else than trying to protect my head. I really hurt my shoulder very bad and I understood that it was a serious thing right away as I couldn’t feel my arm.AS: What was the diagnosis?KK: The problem was that I had no diagnosis. I needed an MRI, but the coaches didn’t think it was necessary as my hand was going better. It was tough. In my day-to-day life I wouldn’t feel anything bad, but as soon as I hit the ice, then I was feeling a lot of pain. But I kept on playing without telling anything to anyone. Then during a VHL game I had a shot and almost fainted because of the pain. After that game my father and I finally went on to get an MRI. The doctor told me: “How could you have been playing hockey like that?”"
As a fan, that is the only part of the interview that scares me. If a doctor truly said that, it is a worry and could be quite understandable that teams might shy away from him.
I’ve had shoulder issues and do not play a full contact sport any longer. They’re not fun to deal with and can be an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. As long as you rehab properly, you can regain a lot but it all depends on the person.
Nevertheless, this may have proven most fortunate for the Blues. As Kostin said, he would likely not have left Russia if he was taken care of and given playing time of any sort.
Even if the Blues still drafted him, that would have been a mess. KHL teams, or at least the league, are notoriously difficult to deal with regarding the release of their players to the NHL. Depending on the terms of his contract, Kostin may have been over in Russia for years even if the Blues wanted him now.
You always fear players that have had significant injury. However, the way it played out might be for the best. The Blues now have the freedom, within reason, to do what they want with him.
I say within reason because, according to Kostin, certain assurances have been given. Hopefully the Blues do not put themselves in a bad light in his estimation.
"AS: It was a hard summer for Dynamo Moscow.KK: We talked with the Blues representatives. I’ve been asked if I was ready to move to North America. I just gave them one condition: I shouldn’t have gone playing juniors. I wanted to play pro hockey and progress. I understand that probably it would be more useful for me to play in the KHL rather than in the AHL, but that’s how things went. The Blues agreed, and I moved on without any regret.AS: It has been said that your NHL debut will depend whether you’ll play well at the WJC.KK: Yes, if I’ll play well on the tournament I have been promised to play in St. Louis."
The last line quoted is the only one that gives me pause. We do have to take into consideration that this was translated from Russian. Perhaps the context is different in their language.
However, it appears far less than likely that Kostin is going to play in a Blues sweater this season. San Antonio is making a push to the playoffs in the AHL, so they need him. The Blues are in the midst of their own playoff push and likely do not want to alter any chemistry they’ve built up.
As long as Kostin continues to focus on his game and take everything else in stride, he continues to impress with his maturity. As fans, we would have loved for him to blow everyone away and assure himself an NHL spot next year.
That has not happened yet, so it may be a longer wait than we anticipated. Kostin only has 21 points in 54 games, which is not great even if he is playing further down the lineup.
I still choose to be positive about it all though. The mental side of the game is so important and he already seems to have that down. These are the kinds of players that you want. You want someone that will stand up for what they think they deserve, but not whine about it when situations dictate otherwise.
Kostin has that part down and he’s only 18. If the rest of his game catches up just as quickly, he’ll be skating in the NHL soon enough.
Again, thanks to the Hockey Writers and Sports-Express for the interview done with Kostin. Check out the full interview at the link toward the beginning of the article.