If there is any position that the Blues likely don’t need any more of at the NHL level right now, it is defense. The Blues already have seven names from which to choose six players to play each night.
That doesn’t mean they don’t need guys capable of stepping in. Niko Mikkola is just such a player.
Mikkola is not flashy. He won’t wow you with stickhandling or flash by you with skating ability.
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He is a modern defender. He has good feet, good positioning and is strong on the puck.
Mikkola can score when called upon, but that is not his first duty. Nevertheless, he scored two goals and had 14 points with San Antonio before the AHL season was halted.
Unlike Kostin, who almost certainly has a future with the Blues, Mikkola needs more opportunities like this to prove he is capable. The Blues have not given up on him, especially since he’s a more reliable defender than some of their other prospects, but he’s slipping down the list a little.
Mikkola needs this opportunity to get himself back in front of the scouts and coaches. Practice is not the same as games, but seeing someone live is still better than relying on game film.
If nothing else, Mikkola can get a sense of where he stands. Perhaps there would be closed-door conversations about the future of the defense given the possibility of one or two players leaving in free agency.
If the Blues are confident in bringing back the entire defense for 2020-21, perhaps they let Mikkola sign with a European team. The North American minor league system is up in the air, so having him find a place to play would still be important, if there is little chance of him getting ice time in St. Louis.