Klim Kostin (#31 Overall)
Background: Hailing from Penza, Russia, Kostin is a 6’3” 200+ lb. natural winger who played the 2016-17 season with the Moscow Dynamo of the KHL. Having been hurt most of the season, Kostin did not record any goals or assists with the Dynamo while only playing in a total of eight games. While this looks concerning considering the Blues took Robert Thomas at #20 who scored at a point per game pace in the OHL, Euro leagues stats are a bit harder to judge a prospect’s potential as teenagers are often playing against former NHL players such as Ilya Kovalchuk. For reference, Vladimir Tarasenko scored a total of 34 points in 80 games in the KHL prior to being drafted. Benchmarking Euro prospects against their North American counterparts usually comes down to the international junior tournaments where the playing field is much more even. Kostin has been a point per game player the past two years when representing Mother Russia which shows us why Klim was ranked the #1 overall European skater according to NHL Central Scouting prior to the draft.
Kostin has exceptional size for his age drawing stature comparisons to fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin when he was drafted. Kostin differs from Malkin in overall skill and position as Malkin is now a Top 5 center in the NHL. Both players have the ability to dominate a game with their size and skill when they want to (key point here) although a better overall projection for Kostin has been Alexander Radulov who also is a left-handed right winger of roughly the same size. Radulov scored a career high 54 points last year for the Montreal Canadiens before signing with the Dallas Stars in the offseason. Scouts consider Klim’s shot to be near elite for a prospect along with his ability to use his size when driving the net. His skating ability is average compared to other prospects but above average for his size. His biggest knocks are consistency and concerns over his recovery from the season ending shoulder injury. Here are some highlights:
My take: Boy do I love this pick. This Rusky is the definition of a boom-bust pick that can push a team over the edge or set a team back for years. Kostin was supposed to be a Top 10 or even Top 5 pick before the shoulder injury. If he was also a natural pivot, I think Kostin could have pushed Hischier and Patrick for best players in his draft class. I have no doubt, the kid can but the biscuit in the basket. He shows glimpses of the “it” factor with his ability to finish from beyond the circles that Blues fans have become accustomed to from the likes of Tarasenko and Hull. The fact the Blues were able to steal him at #31 reduces the boom-bust risk after already securing the high floor but lower ceiling centerman in Robert Thomas. A team can never have enough goal scoring and Kostin has the potential to be an anchor on a second scoring line behind Tarasenko (who draws enough attention from the opposing team’s top pairings leaving opportunities for second and third scoring lines).
Now for the negatives of this pick. There is a chance Kostin simply can’t transition his game to the smaller North American rink. A lot of Euro players have this problem although it is less of a problem as the league has moved away from the clutch and grab days of the New Jersey Devil’s neutral zone trap. While the highlights look great, they are cherry-picked from a much larger sample size including the goose egg Kostin put up in the KHL. My second concern is in the ways that Kostin scores. You might have noticed in the highlights, Klim has a great wrist shot and power moves to the net. He really hasn’t shown a slapshot or one-timer like other Russian wingers such as Ovechkin or Kucherov possess. Tarasenko actually has this same fault which leads you to wonder how many more goals Vladdy would score if he had this in his repertoire. The difference is Vladimir’s wrist shot is elite which still lets him score almost 40 goals a year. Kostin’s wrist shot is unproven in the NHL but scouts believe it could project on a similar path as Tarasenko.
The fact the Blues might have another Tarasenko-type player in their prospect pool should be enough to excite fans. Vladdy single-handedly rebounded the team from the failed Erik Johnson pick of 2006. Could Klim Kostin be his perfect sidekick that takes the Blues to Cup contender level? Only time will tell.
Pick Grade: A