As the NHL season wears on, injuries happen. Every team in the league has to rely on players within their system to help out when players go down. The Blues farm system was highly-touted in the offseason and was ranked #3 in the NHL by Corey Pronman of The Athletic. You can read about it on the KMOX website in the following story.
We thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look “Down on the Farm” and see who’s “making hay.”
Blais and MacEachern
The injuries have continued to mount for the St. Louis Blues and they’ve called on more players to help fill the gaps. Earlier this week, the Blues called up forwards Sammy Blais and Mackenzie MacEachern.
Since the recent call, Blais has played in the last 3 games and scored a goal against Montreal, while MacEachern has played in two.
Nolan and Kyrou
Nolan played in 11 games for the Blues before being placed on waivers and being sent back to San Antonio at the end of December. While with the Blues, he recorded 2 assists, logged 14 PIMs and was averaging 7:38 of ice time per game. The former LA King is hard-nosed and is known for his physical play.
In 30 games with the Rampage, Nolan has 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points, however, he scored 3 goals in the most recent 2 games earning the call up to rejoin the Blues.
Many feel that Kyrou is the player who has the potential to become a top-six forward in the NHL. In 56 games with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, Kyrou scored 39 goals and had 70 assists for a 109 point season one year ago.
Kyrou played 11 games with the Blues earlier this season but only managed 1 goal and 1 assist with an average time on ice of 10:36. Upon his assignment to San Antonio the right-shot winger found his game with 11 goals, 14 assists and 25 points in 26 games played. As a result, he was named AHL Rookie of the month in December and subsequently named to the AHL All-Star team as San Antonio’s lone representative.
Who would the Blues call up next, should they need someone else?
If and when another offensive player is called upon to join the Blues, who should it be? Fans on social media have clamored for Klim Kostin. Will he be next?
Kostin recently was chosen as captain for the Russian team in the IIHF World Jr. Championships. His team finished in 3rd place, defeating Switzerland 5-2 in the Bronze medal game. He had 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points in the tournament, tied for 3rd on the Russian squad.
Emotional Reaction Brings Some Criticism
It was his reaction after the semi-final game where they lost to Team USA 2-1 that made the biggest headlines. During recognition as one of the 3 best players in the game, Kostin tossed his helmet and mouthed a profanity when he was booed by the Canadian fans. You have to admire his passion to win, although some questioned his reaction. He later apologized for the way he responded but seeing someone who cares so much about winning is an admirable trait.
The 6’3” 212 lb. Russian was the 31st overall pick by the Blues in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. For reference, the Blues selected Robert Thomas 20th overall in that same draft.
Kostin was touted as the best skater in Europe in that draft. He will turn 20 years old on May 5 of this year, so he’s still young. But, some want to see the big Russian with the Blues sooner rather than later.
Last season, in 67 games Kostin had 6 goals and 22 assists for 28 pts in 67 games. In 31 games with the Rampage this season, Kostin has 5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points. Three of his goals are power-play goals.
Klim has shown some outstanding traits. 1. He’s willing to stand up for his teammates. 2. He can skate. 3. He is viewed as a leader, having been selected as team captain for Russia. So, what’s keeping him in San Antonio?
Why No Call Up Yet?
The glaring thing amongst the stats that may be a reason we haven’t seen him in St. Louis yet is the 52 PIMs and +/- rating of -10. By comparison, only Sammy Blais is close in PIMs with 41 in just 19 games played. Chris Thorburn has logged 24 PIMs in 22 games. Jordan Nolan, 27 PIM in 30 games. In the +/- category, only defenseman Jake Walman matches Kostin’s -10.
Without the ability to speak to someone in San Antonio, we may assume that he just needs to play a more disciplined game and possibly needs to be better on the defensive end of the ice. Perhaps a taste of what life is like in the NHL may be enough to inspire those things which are lacking. I think Blues fans would enjoy seeing him play. Let’s hope we get the chance this season to see what he’s got.
The Blues defense hasn’t been exempt from the injury bug and depth in the system is somewhat questionable should more than 1 or 2 longer-term injuries occur. Recently, Carl Gunnarsson and Vince Dunn have been banged up and missed some time. The Blues have managed to get by without further call-ups, but who can they call upon if needed?
NHL Experienced – Jordan Schmaltz and Chris Butler
Both of them have been with the Blues this season. Butler played solid while with the Blues. The Rampage team captain is a 32-year-old journeyman defenseman who recently played in his 400th NHL game, so he’s been around. He’s a good leader and a good guy to have in San Antonio to mentor the younger guys, but he’s also proven that he can help out when needed in St. Louis.
Schmaltz recently cleared waivers and was sent down after being a healthy scratch most of the time with the Blues. He played 20 games with the team earlier in the year but never found his way into the rotation on a regular basis. He is 25 years old and if he hasn’t cracked the lineup by now you have to wonder if he’s ever going to be part of the Blues’ plans. As a result of his time in St. Louis, he has only played in 2 games with the Rampage.
Jerabek was acquired earlier in the year and played 1 game with the Blues. He has played in 24 games in San Antonio and has scored 4 goals, has 3 assists for 7 points. The Czech born 27-year old has played 37 total games in his NHL career.
Youngsters – Reinke, Mikkola, and Walman
Mitch Reinke, Niko Mikkola, and Jake Walman are all 22 years old. Reinke was undrafted. The Stillwater, Minnesota native is a right-shot and is 5’11” and 181 lbs. He leads the defensemen in games played (39) and points (23). He also leads the Rampage team with power play assists (10). According to the stats that are available for AHL teams and players he looks to be a guy the Blues are relying on for now and hoping can become a regular in the NHL.
Mikkola is a big-bodied defenseman. At 6’4″ it would seem that he needs to add some weight at just 185 lbs. He was a 5th round draft pick in the 2015 draft and is from Finland. He has 5 points in 39 games.
Walman is 6’1″ and 170 lbs. St. Louis drafted him 82nd overall in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. Jake is a left shot defenseman and has notched 5 points in 34 games with San Antonio.
Joey LaLeggia & Tyler Wotherspoon
Wotherspoon and LaLeggia are in the middle of the pack in age amongst d-men down on the farm at 25 and 26 years old respectively.
LaLeggia is a 5’10” 185 lb left-handed shot. He was a 5th round draft pick in 2012 by the Edmonton Oilers. In 37 games with the Rampage, he has 19 points on 4 goals and 15 assists.
Wotherspoon also shoots left but is much bigger at 6’2″ 207 lbs. He was drafted in 2011 in the 2nd round by the Calgary Flames 57th overall. In 38 games he has 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points.
The following chart shows the defensemen and their stats this season in San Antonio.