Klim Kostin is trending upwards. Not only is he being discussed internally for his play, toughness, and hustle, but his quick wit and happy-go-lucky persona have him becoming a fan and media favourite. His name is being tossed in conversations to play alongside Connor McDavid and fill the vacated tough agitator void felt by the absence of Evander Kane.
Up until a few weeks ago, questions and discussions surrounding the newly acquired Oiler regarded curiosity into who Kostin is, not how and why he is being promoted to the top line. Originally selected in the first round in the same draft that saw the Edmonton Oilers choose Kailer Yamamoto, Kostin was regarded as a hard-skating prospect with all the necessary tools for NHL success. Not only does Kostin possess good hockey sense and physicality, but he can drive play in part to his drive, hustle, and strength, allowing him to win puck battles in the dirty areas of the hockey rink.
Although injuries hampered his development during his stint with the St. Louis Blues, he was eventually acquired for an Oiler prospect who had suffered similar setbacks. With once highly-touted Dmitri Samorukov sent to the Blues, the trade was labeled as a fresh start for both prospects. Kostin is beginning to take advantage of this opportunity since his Oilers tenure with the AHL farm team and only being recalled when injuries sent many of the regular contributors to the shelf.
Kostin’s production is showing improvement with the Oilers
Historically, Kostin has yet to sustain much success in his career. As mentioned above, with his development being hindered by injuries, Kostin only played parts of three seasons with St. Louis, with his best statistical season coming in 2021–22. During that year, Kostin recorded career highs in games played, goals, hits, and points. However, he outperformed his XG total of three goals by one and posted subpar underlying metrics. Whether it was shot quality or shot quantity, Kostin was below league average in both categories, along with an abysmal XG/60, indicating Kostin was on pace to score one goal every 11 games.
Kostin’s play has exhibited greater degrees of success during his Oilers tenure. Currently, across 11 games, roughly half of what most of the Oiler’s regular players have played, Kostin ranks:
- 12th in goals,
- fifth in G/60,
- 11th in hits,
- eighth in penalty minutes, and fifth in penalty minutes drawn.
One aspect of Kostin’s game that aligns with his draft profile is his strength and toughness. Not only has he been a very physically impactful player, but he is averaging roughly three hits per game, showing a tenacity to not back down to some of the league’s toughest players, including Ryan Reaves.
Kostin’s underlying metrics imply that he has been above team and league average across several categories. In his limited playing time, Kostin sits fifth in XG/60 and should be fourth as he ranked behind Warren Foegele, Zach Hyman, Kane (who has not played in over ten games), and McDavid. This implies that Kostin has done an excellent job driving offense and creating quality shot chances against opponents. Kostin also sits tenth on the Oilers with a positive Corsi, further strengthening the argument that he outperforms opponents when analyzing shot quantity.
Only some things about Kostin’s play have been positive, though. Objectively, Kostin has not had fewer opportunities than his teammates, possibly explaining Kostin’s 16th rank in XG. When this metric is compared as a rate per 60, as described above, Kostin sits fifth. However, Kostin ranks 15th in XG%, indicating that although he has generated offensive opportunities by shot quality, he has been unable to suppress quality chances at the same rate.
Kostin’s impact on different Oilers’ lines (minimum ten minutes played)
|Line||Min||C%||SF||SA||XG%||XGF||XGA||XG Diff||XGF/60||XGA/60||XG/60 Diff|
Kostin only qualifies between three line combinations when using ten minutes played together as the benchmark. Among those line blends, one supports outstanding play, which occurs when Kostin is alongside Ryan McLeod and Mattias Janmark. Although it is a small sample size of only 14 minutes, this player combination possesses elite ability in both shot quality and quantity generation. Among 27 Oiler lines, this trio ranks sixth best for Corsi% and ninth for XG%, providing Oilers’ fans hope that the return of McLeod can lengthen and increase the lineup’s depth. The Corsi% is particularly interesting as Janmark does not possess league-average ability in this metric, although Kostin and McLeod do. Additionally, the play of these three drives positive XG and XG/60 Diff, indicating the line positively contributes offensively at almost one goal per 60 minutes.
Although the play with McLeod has been successful when paired with Janmark, the pair is different when elite possession winger Jesse Puljujarvi is the other winger. When this trio is on the ice together, the line posts bottom five metrics among 27 qualified Oiler wingers by both shot quality and shot quantity metrics. Furthermore, they cannot generate offensive chances nor mitigate quality chances against. Additionally, when the line is on the ice, they would be outscored at 1.5 additional goals per 60 minutes than they can generate against opponents. When building upon the interesting realization brought forth by the Janmark discussion, although each player has above-league-average possession metrics, they do not jive as a unit, possibly due to the similar nature of Puljujarvi and Kostin’s play.
Depth is a requirement that all contending teams need. However, Kostin’s play with Devin Shore and Derek Ryan, both below league-average players by the shot quality and quantity analysis, indicate the trio does not bode well as a unit. As a line, even though Kostin posts above the league norm Corsi%, the line ranks among the bottom third of all qualified Oilers lines for XG%, Corsi%, XGA, XGF/60, and XGA/60. Further highlighting that similar to the Kostin-McLeod-Puljujarvi line, the line does not play well together in their 44 minutes of play, unable to create nor mitigate the opponent’s qualities.
Hopefully the Oilers can mould Kostin into the player they need
Kostin is a young player with potential who helps physically fill the void with toughness and offensive contributions. As the analysis indicates, Kostin pairs well with playmaking when he is expected to agitate and contribute with hits alongside working the dirty areas and digging the pucks out for his teammates to cycle. However, his play suffers when he plays with individuals who post sub-norm league metrics (Shore and Ryan) or with individuals who play an identical style, although Kostin has possessed more finish than Puljujarvi on the season.
As his results indicate, Kostin’s ability to generate the fourth best rate of offense on the Oilers, alongside his plus shot quantity generation, prove he may be a fit alongside McDavid and Draisaitl on a loaded line or with McDavid and Hyman. Although, Kostin and Hyman’s play styles may coincide and have the same impact on Kostin’s play as Puljujarvi’s. Therefore, the results indicate that playing with talented teammates may further improve his play, filling the agitator and toughness void left by Kane’s injury. Kostin is continually showcasing Ken Holland’s ability to win a trade by providing a talented forward with a fresh start.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire