HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It was the first day of prospects camp for the St. Louis Blues last week and setting up shop on the left faceoff dot was the 31st pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Klim Kostin.
Kostin, a big, powerful, imposing-looking 6-foot-3, 196-pound player with the raw ability of skill and size, was hammering one-timers. He was able to pinpoint a number of them into the far top corner, drawing oohs and ahhs from a noticeably large crowd at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall.
Blues fans have heard the hype. Seeing the components come to fruition is what they're clamoring for.
Kostin was projected to be a top-10 pick in Chicago but that notion was derailed by a shoulder injury sustained last season, one that didn't allow the Penza, Russia native to take part in scrimmages at camp. Kostin is expected to be cleared to play when the Blues take part in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. in September.
Kostin, who speaks little to no English, has been able to display his skill, accuracy and power during drills and offered glimpses of why the Blues and general manager Doug Armstrong moved back into the first round following a trade of enforcer Ryan Reaves and a 2017 second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 31st pick and center Oskar Sundqvist.
"He's a hard worker. He's a hockey kid, a rink rat," Blues amateur director of scouting Bill Armstrong said of Kostin. "One of the things that we liked about him is that on ice, he plays a North American style game. He's a big body that plays a heavy game, so we're really intrigued. Not only that, but you get a skill package.
"Obviously he's got some adjustments to make -- how hard they play every night, the consistency factor over here -- he's still a ways away, especially with the injury setting him back a little bit. But as you can see here in camp, some of the stuff he can do, he's got some really good potential and projection."
Kostin, 18, has made his feelings known what his intentions are, and they don't involve junior hockey.
"Play NHL," Kostin said through a translator. And if not in the NHL, then "American Hockey League."
Perhaps Kostin, who incorporates boxing into his training, was a bit of an unknown based off the lack of games played last season (eight with Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League and before that, nine with Dynamo Balashikha of the VHL, Russia's second division).
Kostin took another step toward his goal of playing in the NHL on Tuesday, when he was one of 42 players with Dynamo Moscow to become a free agent after the Kontinental Hockey League ruled the team didn't follow its contract obligations. His agent said on Twitter that Kostin would sign his entry-level contract with the Blues "in the coming days."
Despite the KHL connection, that didn't deter the Blues from taking a chance on a player touted as the top-ranked international skater in the NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.
"Once he gets his ducks in a row with the KHL, then we'll talk to him," Doug Armstrong said before Tuesday's ruling. "... He was a player that our guys liked."
The immediate challenge of making it in the NHL as a teenager won't be Kostin's toughest challenge. He moved to Moscow from his hometown, where his parents own a butcher shop, when he was 12 to begin his hockey career and lived with his grandmother.
But through all the hard work and battling injury, Kostin said he's feeling 100 percent and ready to tackle what lies ahead.
"It was very difficult but I've worked very hard to get back in shape," Kostin said. "And I'm practicing getting ready to play. I'm at 100 percent now, ready to play in NHL next season."