Yesterday, the Blues sent Mackenzie MacEachern and Logan Brown to the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds, leaving the Blues’ roster at 24 players. Today, the team sent Klim Kostin down to the AHL (more on that in a bit), meaning that their opening night roster is set.
Here’re today’s practice lines, which may as well be what we see on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche:
#stlblues practice lines— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 11, 2021
Extras: Clifford, Kostin
With Kostin sent down to maximize some cap space until Oskar Sundqvist is officially on LTIR, Kyle Clifford is the odd man out. If you were wondering if Kostin was finally going to get a decent look this season, don’t worry quite yet. Berube seems to think that Kostin will be back up, and soon:
“We want to get him in games. I’m not sure yet when. But Klim has got to just keep working on his game. I think it’s important for him to learn and become a real good pro, and at the same time, watch how some of our guys handle things, how they do things.”
As many times as Kostin has been on the opening night bubble, it may seem like the Gagarin Cup winner is being given short shrift. After all, a 19 year old prospect may get more playing time to start the season than he is. Annually, Kostin seems to be right on the precipice of sticking with the team, but someone passes him on the depth chart. Berube doesn’t think people should read much into it.
“He’s going to get a lot from practices, coaches working with him and developing him, getting him ready. He also needs to play games at the same time. We’re going to get him in a game and he’s going to play.”
Kostin’s going to get his time to shine, but for the first nine games, Jake Neighbours will have the puck in his court. Says Berube:
“Right now, I’ve got him starting Game 1. He’s earned a spot on this hockey team, so I’m going to treat him like any other player right now.”
Right now, the expectation is that every player on that 23 man roster will be on that roster as the season progresses. The Blues have a nine-game window before they have to either send Neighbours back to juniors or keep him with the team. He’s moved back in with Brayden Schenn, but whether or not he needs to get comfortable is up to him and how he looks in a NHL game.
Neighbours has a lot to prove, but plenty of time to do it - he’s a prospect; what games he spends up here is gravy. He’s had an excellent pre-season, and he could be on a line with a worse mentor than Tyler Bozak. Berube, for his part, was effusive in his praise for Neighbours:
“I think he’ll be used in a lot of different ways, to be honest with you,” Berube said. “I think he can move up and down our lineup, he can play with offensive players and he can play a role from a defensive standpoint, killing penalties, he’s done a good job. We’re going to just see what he does here and I think you’re going to be pleased with what he’s going to do. He’s a hell of a player, he’s done a great job. He came into camp and earned a spot.”
Flexibility is the name of the game, and that’s what Berube sees when he looks at Neighbours. It’s been a while since Berube has been this outwardly excited to get his hands on a player. Let’s see how his faith in Neighbours pays off. For his part, Neighbours wants to stick around, and it’s reasonable to see him make his intent a reality.