After being drafted 31st overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, Russian prospect Klim Kostin started his North American career playing in the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage. He recently played at the 2018 WJC for Team Russia, where he was the top-scoring player of the team that were knocked out of the tourney after a disappointing quarter-final finish against host Team USA.
In this translated interview, originally appearing on the popular Russian website Sport-Express during the WJC, Kostin talked about his prospects in St. Louis, his move to North America and his ties with his father.
* You can also enjoy the original article by Alexei Shevchenko *
Kostin Between WJC and NHL
Alexei Shevchenko: It has been said that your NHL debut will depend whether you’ll play well at the WJC.
Klim Kostin: Yes, if I’ll play well on the tournament I have been promised to play in St. Louis.
AS: The NHL is a whole other level.
KK: I’m ready for that. Of course I understand that I need a lot of work, but I’m working hard because I want to play in the NHL. I really want to try breathing that air this year already.
AS: Lately you don’t have a lot of minutes in the AHL, and also haven’t the best stats.
KK: I’m ready to explain what’s going on. The fact is that the Blues don’t have their own farm team. San Antonio is now primarily helping [the] Colorado [Avalanche]. At the start of the season I was playing many minutes and had good stats, but then the Avalanche assigned some players and I have been moved down in the depth chart. I don’t play on the power play now. Nothing strange.
AS: Why aren’t you playing for the Chicago Wolves? The Blues assign players there too.
KK: As far as I understand, the Blues send their younger players to San Antonio, while the more experienced guys get assigned to Chicago.
AS: What does the coach tell you?
KK: He says that I’m doing everything well and that all is good. Simply the situation is this and I can’t change it.
AS: You already fought twice in the AHL.
KK: And I never was the initiator. I also fought while playing with the Blues in the pre-season.
AS: And then a lot of people started saying that the Blues got a player who can both score and fight.
KK: Well, you know what was the last time I fought? It was still in the MHL. I don’t know why someone decided that I will constantly fight. But of course, I’m ready in case of dirty plays from the opposition.
Move to North America
AS: At the draft you dropped down to the 31st pick. But it’s not bad, in the end.
KK: Some strange story happened. [The] Tampa [Bay Lightning] wanted to pick me — they even promised me that I would have been picked by them. Then I talked with representatives of [the] Calgary [Flames] and [the] Boston [Bruins] and they told me that if Tampa wouldn’t pick me, then they would do.
AS: That’s interesting.
KK: The rankings before the draft were always changing. I was going up, then down. In some rankings I was even in the top-10. Then you watch the next day and you’re again lower.
AS: In the end Tampa didn’t pick you. And what about the other teams?
KK: I got no explanation. I frankly think that those teams already determined their candidates and didn’t want to change their plans. And all of those talks…
AS: What talks?
KK: That my age was rewritten. Even during the draft I’ve been asked about my age.
AS: Well, you can tell me your secret age now.
KK: I was born on May 5, 1999. My age was never rewritten. I underwent a complete examination. People went to [my hometown] Penza, gathered all the documents. All is in good order, but somewhat this history appeared again during the draft and maybe it had its role.
AS: St. Louis isn’t a bad team to get to. They have many holes in the roster.
KK: Well, can I, at my age, discuss these things? Whatever opinion I have on the Blues roster, I’m a young player and I have to deserve a place in the team. I want to get a chance and I’m working hard to get it.
AS: Your move to North America was unexpected, also because of your injury. You pretty much didn’t play at the KHL. How did you decide to move?
KK: Where should we start? From the injury or my move?
AS: Let’s talk about your move first.
KK: I would have never left Russia if Dynamo let me play. But, last year, they made a clown out of me. They dressed me for the game just to sit the whole time on the bench. I wasn’t asking to play on the first line or to play on the special teams, but I could well play on the fourth line. I played six minutes once, when [former Boston Bruins draftee] Martins Karsums picked up a ten-minute penalty. But in all the other games I played two minutes.
AS: But former Dynamo head coach Oreshkin usually trusted younger players.
KK: He also told me that he’s happy, that I need to work, and so on, and as a result I watched the games from the bench. I wouldn’t have left Russia if Dynamo told me that I’d play in the team’s third line.
AS: It was a hard summer for Dynamo Moscow.
KK: We talked with the Blues representatives. I’ve been asked if I was ready to move to North America. I just gave them one condition: I shouldn’t have gone playing juniors. I wanted to play pro hockey and progress. I understand that probably it would be more useful for me to play in the KHL rather than in the AHL, but that’s how things went. The Blues agreed, and I moved on without any regret.
Related: Klim Kostin Impressing in St. Louis
Kostin Reveals Injury History
AS: Now about your injury.
KK: It’s a very long history. We were playing against Canada, an opponent tried to hit me against the board, we were going full speed and I couldn’t do anything else than trying to protect my head. I really hurt my shoulder very bad and I understood that it was a serious thing right away as I couldn’t feel my arm.
AS: What was the diagnosis?
KK: The problem was that I had no diagnosis. I needed an MRI, but the coaches didn’t think it was necessary as my hand was going better. It was tough. In my day-to-day life I wouldn’t feel anything bad, but as soon as I hit the ice, then I was feeling a lot of pain. But I kept on playing without telling anything to anyone. Then during a VHL game I had a shot and almost fainted because of the pain. After that game my father and I finally went on to get an MRI. The doctor told me: “How could you have been playing hockey like that?”
Klim Kostin scores again and it’s 5-1 Russia pic.twitter.com/ywcmlQzkEm
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
KK: And even after the diagnosis, in the VHL, I have been asked if I could play anyway. But then my dad stepped up and told that he wasn’t going to risk his son’s health.
AS: Did you undergo a surgery?
KK: We decided to undergo a surgery in Germany. It’s expensive, but they have good doctors there. Then I went to Detroit for rehab and I was followed by the Red Wings doctor. Now I’m good, finally.
AS: At your young age sometimes it’s easy to feel yourself a star.
KK: With such a father it’s not possible. He helps me a lot, and does everything the right way, but if you listen to him, I never have a good game. I know that sometimes I play well, but I’m still far from being ideal.