The St. Louis Blues’ 2021-22 season represented a major transition for the franchise. No longer a stout defensive team built from the blue line out, they finished second in the NHL in goals scored, with nine forwards recording 20-plus goals. Though the season came to an end in a six-game defeat by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, there are plenty of highs and lows to reflect on. In this series, we’ll evaluate each player who played 10 or more games with the team (as well as the head coach and general manager), grading their individual performance and looking at their future with the team.
It was another uneven season for forward Klim Kostin, who couldn’t stick with the Blues after getting his chance. It’s been disappointing to watch Kostin continue to not reach his potential after being a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft.
The Ryan Reaves trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins once looked great with Kostin and Oskar Sundqvist as the return, but that is changing now. Sundqvist was a big contributor to the team’s Stanley Cup title in 2019, but Kostin still hasn’t found his game at the NHL level.
What Went Right: Finding Some of His Game in the Minors
It’s not like Kostin has lit up the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Springfield Thunderbirds, but he’s been solid. The Thunderbirds are a tremendous team, and they’re now in the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final. That should be a great experience for Kostin, as was his appearance for Avangard Omsk in their Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) championship in 2021.
In 17 regular-season games, Kostin had six points and a plus-3 rating. He’s taken it up a notch in the playoffs, with six points in eight games, producing for a team that has run right through the AHL. He has been playing alongside Nikita Alexandrov and Nathan Todd, and their line has been playing well. This experience should have Kostin ready to compete for a spot in the NHL next season, but fellow Russian Alexei Toropchenko could be standing his way.
What Went Wrong: Another Disappointing Season in the NHL
This is a two-way street. The Blues haven’t given Kostin a great chance to succeed in the NHL, and Kostin hasn’t played well either. He is not solely to blame for his struggles, but that Toropchenko succeeded in nearly the same situation is eye-opening for everybody.
The Blues have never given Kostin a chance to play in the top-six for any sustained amount of time, but he also hasn’t earned it. He has 11 points in 46 games over the last three seasons, playing just six games with two points before 2021-22. It’s not all about the production, either. There are a lot of little things that he doesn’t do well enough.
For players like Kostin and Toropchenko, they need to do the little things against the wall and in the corners with the puck. Toropchenko did those things, while Kostin did not, and that is the main difference between the two. The other difference is Toropchenko’s incredible skating ability. Kostin needs to improve every level of his game if he wants to sustain quality play.
- Tallied 90 hits, ranked seventh on Blues
- Minus-3, fifth-worst on Blues
- 88 AHL points in 197 games over four seasons
Final Grade: D+
The only reason that this isn’t a worse grade is that I believe that the Blues haven’t given him a fair chance. This season, Kostin was supposed to take the next step in his play and production, and he didn’t do any of that. At the end of the day, he did not grow enough as a player to justify keeping him in the NHL, and the Blues saw that.
What’s Next for Kostin?
After the Thunderbirds’ playoff run is over, it needs to be a summer of evaluation for Kostin. He needs to change his game and become a stronger overall player. The next step is to compete again for a spot in the lineup, but it will be tough with the depth and competition. It seems that Kostin and Logan Brown could be interesting pieces for the Blues’ bottom-six next season if they get the chance.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.