Even before St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou took his first steps on NHL ice, the term “gifted” made its way into nearly every story about the young phenom, and deservedly so. Has he lived up to the billing? If 2020-21 is any indication, then yes. The Kyrou train will be chugging through the Gateway City for years to come.
The Blues selected the 23-year-old Toronto native in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft (35th overall). Kyrou made an immediate impression in a limited role last season, showing his burst of speed and elite puck-handling skills with a handful of highlight-reel goals. His performance gave management and a legion of fans reason to hope for a bright future.
In 2020-21, Kyrou played in 55 of the Blues’ 56 games, with 14 goals and 21 assists to rank fifth on the team. He averaged 14:25 of ice time.
Now in his third season, he has played in 99 NHL games, including 16 games in his first season in 2018-19 and 28 games in 2019-20.
What Went Right
Kyrou cemented his reputation by playing up to, and even beyond, expectations set for him by head coach Craig Berube and general manager Doug Armstrong this season. And he joined the club after a stellar career at nearly every level he’s played, according to Blues Insider Lou Korac.
“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,” Korac reported for KSDK.com. “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 told Korac. “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 (Berube) have talked about.”
In a piece about St. Louis’ 2020-21 forward group, The Hockey Writers‘ Ethan Carter wrote, “Kyrou has earned a shot at the top-nine since he’s seemingly improved with every game he’s played under Berube. He was one of the Blues’ top prospects going into last season and played in 28 games with nine points. He also scored four points in his last 10 games of the 2019-20 regular season.”
“He’s a fast skater who can make a lot of plays offensively with his skill set, but he needs to continue to buy into the way the Blues play offensively, cycling the puck, playing strong along the boards and taking smart shots,” noted Carter. “Kyrou will be great at doing that if he continues to work on it, and he can be a huge offensive producer on the third line if he can be consistent.”
Kyrou helped open the Blues’ scoring this season with a first-period goal against the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-1 victory on Jan. 13.
In his season preview, Blues Insider Jeremy Rutherford was giddy over Kyrou’s training camp: “It’s only training camp, but this is the best I’ve seen Kyrou play. Admittedly, I was surprised when the Blues had the 22-year-old on the third line to open training camp, rather than Sammy Blais. Berube said he had a hunch about Kyrou, and as we learned during the Blues’ Stanley Cup run in 2019, who are we to argue with Berube’s hunches?”
“In two intrasquad scrimmages, Kyrou’s speed and skill were on display, leading to three goals and one assist,” he continued. “But as Berube said in camp, what will be key for Kyrou is his competitiveness, winning board battles, etc. He’s now up to 195 pounds after adding 10 this summer and believes that new strength will help him in those areas.” (from “Jordan Kyrou is ready and 20 other thoughts heading into the Blues’ season,” The Athletic, 1/12/21).
His future in St. Louis is a slam dunk; he’s a restricted free agent, and the Blues should lock him up.
“Another no-brainer who after a breakout season (14 goals and 35 points in 55 games) could be the best young player (23 years old) in the organization,” Rutherford wrote. (from “St. Louis Blues protected list: Who’s staying and who could be picked in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?”, The Athletic, 6/10/21).
As far back as 2017, Kyrou came not just with high hopes but the burden of expectations. His speed has long been considered elite, as characterized by an article in The Athletic.
“Hockey is being played less in stops and starts – or straightaway races – and more in quick changes of direction and tight spaces. As the average player gets faster, the world’s best skaters have to excel in quick bursts and changes of pace,” The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler noted in 2017.
“Kyrou is clinical in his crossovers, or in lulling defenders into believing he’s slowing down his pace only to burst through a seam. Much of what makes Kyrou such an exceptional skater is his ability to identify when to use his speed. Because he’s an aware, head-on-a-swivel player, he’s often able to identify gaps in coverage and cut into them.” (from “The Gifted: Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou and the mastery of skating”, The Athletic, 10/18/17).
Joe Vitale, a former NHL player who is the radio voice of the Blues, says Kyrou’s speed is clearly what sets him apart — and in a very special way.
“So with his speed, Jordan is never out of a game,” Vitale told the Post-Dispatch. “And maybe a part of him beating teams in the third period is the fact that his opponents are a little tired, right? Now the opponents have played 40 minutes of hockey, wear and tear — and all of a sudden Jordan Kyrou’s speed really kind of catches them off guard. He gets a little step on them.” (from ‘Hochman: Jordan Kyrou is faster than fast. How the speed of the Blues forward changes games”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/14/21).
What Went Wrong
It is hard to pick apart the season Kyrou put together. He played a respectable 14:25 each game and won 50 percent of his faceoffs. Not bad for the third-youngest player on the roster behind Klim Kostin and Robert Thomas.
“Any young player, the NHL’s a tough league,” Berube said last January after scratching him in favor of veteran Jacob de la Rose. “(Kyrou) needs to become a harder player. That’s the best way I can put it. Like in battles and wall battles. Little things here and there.”
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“Offensively, he’s got high-end skill with his speed and puck-handling ability, elusiveness,” Berube said in a January 27 SI.com article. “He’s using it, but he’s working. I think the biggest difference is he’s working and competing with or without the puck. That’s what makes him a good player.”
Benjamin Hochman, a columnist with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, highlighted Kyrou’s worth to the team, and to St. Louis, in a recent column. He admits to the young star’s streakiness this season. But he has more than made up for that with other huge goals for the team.
“A lot of Kyrou’s plays have ended up trending on Twitter in the St. Louis area. He’s good for a highlight a night. Of course, the young player sometimes disappears for a period. He’s not Connor McDavid. He’s still learning the nuances of impacting a game. But just when you think he’s having an off night, he’ll flip the whole game in an instant.”
Kyrou was fifth in games played for the Blues (55) behind team leaders Justin Faulk, Brayden Schenn, captain Ryan O’Reilly and veteran David Perron (all with 56 games). He finished the 2020-21 season fourth on the team in assists and was second on the team in even-strength goals (14) behind O’Reilly (18). Kyrou scored two game-winning goals this season.
Final Grade: Jordan Kyrou — A
So, it is safe to say Kyrou made the necessary strides he was expected to make. He’s become a scoring force for St. Louis and had key goals in the season that were clutch goals at the time. For that, I have to give Kyrou an A. He played nearly every game and was top five on the team in points.
He is clearly the future in St. Louis, and by all accounts, the next Blues forward to have a massive breakout season in 2021-22.
Does he come as hyped? So far, yes, he does. This A is more than effort — it is for achievement.
Rob Staggenborg covers the St. Louis Blues for TheHockeyWriters.com, as well as hosting several NHL podcasts. He enjoys St. Louis style pizza with gooey cheese, and sitting for hours on end in metro St. Louis traffic listening to sports podcasts. He is a proud U.S. veteran. Visit his website at brockbanner.com
Follow his Blues coverage at STLFanReport.com and on Twitter @RealBrockBanne1