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Kostin Leads Draft's International Skaters

The Russian is tops on Central Scouting's list despite missing most of the year with an injury

by Matt Shwayder / ColoradoAvalanche.com

ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago on June 23-24. Klim Kostin is the No. 1-ranked international skater in the NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the fourth overall selection at the draft.

The skill set that Klim Kostin possess at his size is nothing short of incredible, which may be a reason why NHL Central Scouting has him placed at the top of its international list. The center/left wing stands at 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds, making him one of the largest skaters outside of North America available for this year's draft.

From Penza, Russia, Kostin has great stick abilities, but he shines as a playmaker by reading a defense and choosing the smartest option for his team at the time.

Looking up Kostin's 2016-17 campaign won't cause him to jump off the page necessarily, but that would be because of a shoulder injury that resulted in season-ending surgery. Unable to play many games against the men in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, he has still made his impression on the international stage.

This past season, the 18-year-old skated in a total of 17 games split between the KHL with Dynamo Moscow and with Dynamo Balashikha in Russia's second division (VHL). Kostin tallied one goal in the few times his blades touched the professional ice.

Competing in the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Kostin captained the Russians to a bronze-medal victory over a very competitive Swedish team. He racked up seven points (four goals and three assists) in five games played, including the sixth goal for his team in the third-place game.

The forward got a true taste of competitive hockey against his North American peers when he participated in the 2016 Super Series with the Russian Selects under-20 team this past year. He netted one and dished one for a total of two points in five contests against all-stars squads from each branch of the Canadian Hockey League (OHL, QMJHL and WHL).

Video: Alan Hepple discusses Klim Kostin

He is an agile skater with great vison and isn't scared of being physical if needed, which is why the young forward is so highly touted in this draft.

"Kostin is a big, strong, mobile power forward who plays a physical game." NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb said. "He is a strong skater with good speed, very good hockey sense and is an excellent competitor."

The 2015-16 campaign was a big one for Kostin, as he competed in Russia's junior league (MHL) with HK MVD Balashikha and fit in just fine as a then 16-year-old. He tallied 21 points (eight goals and 13 assists) in 30 games. Showing off his ability to scan a defense to make the right decision, resulting in scoring chances for him and his teammates.

He continued his great season by participating in the IIHF U18 World Championship as Russia's captain. He led his team to the quarterfinals behind his four assists in five games, but Russia lost to eventual gold-medal winning Finland.

That same season, Kostin captained the Russian team to a silver-medal finish against Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He finished the tournament with five points (two goals and three assists) in six games played, showcasing his leadership along with his drive to make a play rather than simply score a goal.

"He's close to a complete package with a good combination of size and mobility with great moves and dekes," Stubb said to NHL.com. "He has a very good release but is also unselfish and can set up scoring chances for linemates. Excellent puck-handler, effective in traffic. He's hard to knock off the puck, has good vision. Plays a simple but effective game."

Video: Altitude profiles Klim Kostin

When asked which NHL player he compared his game to, Patrik Laine, the 6-foot-5 rookie for the Winnipeg Jets, came to mind. Laine finished his first season as a Calder Trophy finalist after being second among rookies with 64 points.

"Laine is more of a skilled player and likes to maneuver around and plays a big game for his own size," Kostin said to NHL.com. "I hope that my shot is even better."

Kostin's ceiling is rather high, especially being ranked as high as he is after coming off a difficult season because of the injury. With that said, he has the size to be a strong power forward in the NHL, as well as an ability to create plays from anywhere on the ice.

The lack of games played last year could cause him to fall between the cracks, but the team that selects him may get the steal of the draft and a solid forward for years to come. 

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