Dynamo Moscow forward Klim Kostin would like to play in North America next season. But where that could be is in question.
Where Kostin (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) plays in 2017-18 is one of the questions surrounding the player ranked No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters for the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.
The draft will be held at United Center in Chicago. The first round is June 23 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN), with rounds 2-7 on June 24 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
Kostin can play in the NHL or the American Hockey League next season as an 18-year-old because he'll be drafted out of his native Russia. Kootenay of the Western Hockey League selected him with the first pick of the 2016 Canadian Hockey League import draft, but Kostin said he has no interest in playing there. Kootenay has finished last in the WHL the past two seasons.
"[I'd like to play for] a team that has some older players that are very strong players, those that can teach me a little bit more and I can benefit from their wisdom and skill," Kostin said via an interpreter.
Wherever team Kostin plays for next season will be getting a power forward equally able to score goals and create chances for his linemates.
"He's close to a complete package with a good combination of size and mobility with great moves and dekes," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "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."
Kostin didn't get much of a chance to showcase those skills this season. He played 18 regular-season games, including eight for Dynamo in the Kontinental Hockey League, before having season-ending surgery in late January to repair a shoulder injury.
But scouts were impressed with what they did see. Kostin had seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games and was the captain for Russia at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August. In November he had two points (one goal, one assist) in five games during the Canada-Russia series.
"During the fall he showed a very good combination of size, puck-handling skills, skating and strength," Stubb said.
Kostin had three points (one goal, two assists) in three games for Russia at the World Junior A Challenge in December, but he was playing through a shoulder injury sustained in a pre-tournament game. It was thought at first that he'd need a month to recover; however, further testing showed more serious damage and it was determined he needed surgery.
"Initially of course it was super-difficult mentally," Kostin said. "I took the negative emotions out of my mind immediately and replaced them with positive emotions and then everything started on the way up."
He passed his medical testing at the NHL Scouting Combine and was cleared to participate fully in the fitness testing. He also interviewed with 25 teams during the combine, which ran from May 29 to June 3.
Kostin said he views himself as a power forward and likes to model his game after Winnipeg Jets left wing Patrik Laine (6-5, 206). Laine, the second pick in the 2016 draft, was second among NHL rookies this season with 36 goals and 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. "I hope that my shot is even better."