Steve Yzerman has been known to take a chance or two in the first round.
Stop us if you have heard this before. A highly-skilled forward sees his draft stock take a tumble because of a shoulder Injury. A general manager looks past the injury and sees the talent and takes a risk on drafting him in in the first round. Contrary to popular opinion, Klim Kostin is not Russian for Brett Connolly.
There is no doubting the Russian’s skill. Klostin was the NHL’s Central Scouting Staff’s number one rated European skater in the organization’s final rankings. He’s a big winger (6’3” and 196 lbs as a teenager) who is a solid, if not lightning fast skater. He can cycle the puck down low, but also possess enough skill to shake his way past a defender or two.
If talent isn’t the questions, consistency might be. In January Klostin underwent surgery to repair an injured shoulder. The procedure ended his season, which based on the way it was going, was probably a good thing. His season started with some highs, 7 points in 5 games in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and some lows when he was left off the World Juniors roster. It was capped off prior to his injury with a lackluster debut in the KHL as he aquired zero points in eight games for Dynamo (Moscow). He did, however, show a nifty move in a shootout that won a game.
One of the issues that always seems to linger in the background with Russian prospects is their signability. Does Kostin want to come to North America or does he want to stay in the KHL? With his size and skill level it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he can make the transition right away. He has been described as “close to a complete package” by at least one scout, and without the injury probably would have been a top three pick.
The Lightning aren’t ones to rush their prospects and might be ok with having their prospect continue his development in a league and country he is comfortable in as they have with fellow Russian Nikita Gusev.
If they take that path a problem could arise in a few years when he should be ready to come over. There may be no NHL for him to come over to if there is a strike/lockout. Then some Russian team offers him a few million dollars and he ends up staying in Russia for his entire career.
If he’s still available at the 14th spot, he will be the most talented player available. He will also be the one with the most risk. Al Murray, Steve Yzerman and the rest of the staff will have to decide if the risk is worth the reward.