Perhaps you’ve seen the video of a meteor streaking across the St. Louis sky the other night, illuminating the Gateway Arch and downtown buildings.
Most say it was just a space rock, burning up in the atmosphere and disappearing. Others believe it was a sign from up on high that the arrival of Russian-born Klim Kostin, the St. Louis Blues’ first round draft pick from 2017, was near.
Sure enough, the next day Kostin received the news from the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage head coach Drew Bannister that he was joining the Blues in Columbus for the Friday night tilt against the Blue Jackets. Fans rejoiced. Christmas has come early. The shooting star announced the arrival of the right-wing shooting star.
Who can blame the fans? The Blues dealt Ryan Reaves to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a first round pick that became Kostin. From that moment, there has been much hype about his ascension to the NHL. When Kostin tallied six points in four preseason games for the defending Stanley Cup champs this September, devotees were ready to order their Kostin #37 sweaters.
Despite preseason goals like this, general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Craig Berube have preached patience as a virtue.
Injuries Open the Door
But after losing Vladimir Tarasenko to shoulder surgery, Alexander Steen to a high-ankle sprain, and trading away 2014 first-round draft pick Robby Fabbri, Kostin joined the Blues for practice and traveled to Ohio for Friday night’s game against the Blue Jackets.
Taking in his first game as a healthy scratch, Kostin watched another lead blown by the Blues turn into a disappointing overtime loss to the Metropolitan Division bottom dwellers. Blues fans immediately took to Twitter and demanded that Kostin and his yet-untapped potential be unleashed for Saturday’s home game against the not-so-mighty Anaheim Ducks.
At 7:10 CST Saturday evening, all those wishes came true. Difficult to say who had more jitters, Kostin or his growing legion of fans, because nothing is more intoxicating than potential. Especially when it comes in the form of a 6-foot-3 power forward with a big man’s shot that appears to be NHL-ready.
Cautionary Tale of Potential
So as we sit on the precipice of what fans hope will be the beginning of a long and prosperous career with the Blues, I am reminded of the cautionary tale of another supernova: Ty Rattie.
How dare I compare the wiry Calgary-born forward to the Russian dynamo waiting in the wings. Why Rattie was only a second-rounder. Completely different players. True. But listen to the glowing praise from none other than Armstrong in 2016.
I would say Ty Rattie is the first name that pops off the screen for me. He’s played three years in the American Hockey League now. You’ve never maxed out in your life because you can always get better but he needs to get a very good look at what we’re doing here. That would be the only player that really jumps off the screen.Blues GM Doug Armstrong to beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/4/16
Armstrong was right. Rattie did everything he could in the Western Hockey League while skating right wing for the Portland Winterhawks. With each passing season, he improved his goal and points total, hitting the high-water mark of 57 goals and 121 points in the 2011-12 campaign while bagging another 19 goals in the playoffs. Those are some meaty numbers.
AHL to NHL is the Biggest Step
All of that goal-scoring potential earned him nothing more than a roster spot with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, playing for the then-Blues affiliate. At the age of 20, the same age as Kostin, Ty found twine 31 times and amassed a very respectable 47 points in 72 games.
To put that into perspective, Kostin has 19 goals/60 points in twice as many AHL games (147).
Alas, Rattie couldn’t force himself into the long-term equation for the Blues. Five call-ups to the big club, five return trips to the Wolves. Players like Dmitrij Jaskin and Nail Yakupov got better looks than Rattie.
Finally, in 2017, the Blues put Rattie and his unrealized potential on waivers where the Carolina Hurricanes picked him up for a cup of coffee. He then took his talents north to the Edmonton Oilers on a two-way, one-year deal. Again, flashes of his offensive skills lit up the Edmonton skies in preseason but soon fizzled out.
Another stint in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors produced 21 more goals. Yet another call-up to the Oilers camp in 2018, more hints at greatness in preseason. And yet, the secrets to staying in the NHL were never learned.
All of this brings us back to Kostin. Is he a different player than Rattie? Absolutely. Is he bigger, and does he possess more of what Berube and the Blues are looking for in their forwards? 100%. Does he sport a cheesy mustache? Thankfully, no.
And as he takes the ice tonight for the first time as an NHL player, it is good to remember that Kostin’s story, his career, is yet to be written.
But sometimes nothing shines brighter or burns out faster than potential.
Ask Rattie. He continues to earn his paycheck, looking for a final shot in the NHL, as he skates right wing for Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Dyed-in-wool Blues fan living behind enemy lines in Chicago. First-line aspirations, third-line skill.