Blues 2021-22 Report Cards: Niko Mikkola

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.

Niko Mikkola St. Louis Blues
Niko Mikkola, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There were flashes for the St. Louis Blues with Niko Mikkola, but nothing that solidifies his role for next season. The Blues got some solid and poor play from Mikkola, similar to what he did during the 2020-21 season. He struggled late in the season, and that just may have affected his final grade. Read on to find out.

What Went Right: A Solid First Half

Through 34 games this season, Mikkola recorded nine of the 13 points that he ended up with. He played a total of 54 games, and struggled mightily in parts of the season where he became a frequent healthy scratch. Part of this can be attributed to the defensive partner that he had, as he didn’t seem to fit as well with Colton Parayko or Robert Bortuzzo.

Related: Blues 2021-22 Report Cards: Brandon Saad

The Blues aren’t asking Mikkola for offense, so that doesn’t really matter, but his first half of the season was solid. His minutes were significantly higher than last season, and that didn’t seem to change the season he had. A lot of players struggle with consistency over an entire season, and that was the case for him, but his first half is something positive to take away.

What Went Wrong: No Growth from the 2021-22 Season

The Blues saw almost no growth from Mikkola this season, and that is not ideal after he played 30 games last season. Another negative part of the season was mentioned above, which was the number of healthy scratches he racked up. The Blues do have a lot of defensive depth, but that doesn’t matter as much here. Mikkola certainly could have been the number one option as their third left-handed defenseman.

Niko Mikkola St. Louis Blues
Niko Mikkola, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Another noticeable issue for him this season was the uptick in penalty minutes. He had 55 penalty minutes this season, which was 44 more than last season. He played 24 more games this season, but the uptick in penalty minutes was legit. He was clearly less disciplined and that landed him in the press box often.

In the final 14 games of the season, Mikkola had a plus/minus of minus-9, which is stunning. He also had 11 penalty minutes and just eight shots on goal in those games. Any quality stats he had in his first 40 games were virtually erased with how he finished the season, he didn’t leave a good imprint.

Key Facts

  • Tallied 109 hits, ranking fifth for the Blues
  • Minus-6, ranking, third worst for the Blues
  • 1.02 penalty minutes per game

Final Grade: D+

I hate to be harsh here, but this was the opposite of what Mikkola needed to do this season. He finished the season poorly, and he wasn’t all that great in the first 40 games either. He was one of the least reliable defensemen for the Blues, which is saying a lot. The Blues had little-to-no reliability on the back-end this season, which makes their 100-plus point season more remarkable. The expectations for Mikkola were high enough to justify this grade, in my view.

What’s Next For Mikkola?

It seems likely that Mikkola could be the seventh or eighth defenseman for the Blues next season, as there are still moves to be made this summer. If the Blues still have both Nick Leddy and Marco Scandella on their roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mikkola started in the American Hockey League (AHL) after the Calle Rosen extension or got traded. He will be a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer, so being traded is not out of the question. Unless the internal evaluation for Mikkola is better than this, he likely doesn’t start on opening night in 2022-23.

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