Plenty has changed since last summer. One of the biggest losses in terms of the Blues not having their minor league affiliation set in place this year is Niko Mikkola decision to stay in Europe. The decision to sign a two year deal with Tappara of the Finnish Liiga was a result to there being too much “up in the air” on just where Mikkola would play this season. You only have to look at Jake Walman to see ice time can be difficult to find. Ice time isn’t a given but the only way to learn is in game time situations.
Though this is something that’s been discussed a number of times on the site. You can’t rewind back Mikkola’s decision to stay in Finland but you can make a stronger push to bring the defenseman to San Antonio. Currently Tappara sits in third place in the Liiga and with eight games left in the year, a playoff run is essentially a lock. Mikkola only has ten points on the season but what he brings to the table is just as important as numbers in the box score. Starting off with the fact he’s thrown the puck on net 111 times so far this year. More than just a physical presence on the ice, Mikkola creates offense for others around him.
Minor league rosters are always a revolving both during the season and especially during the summer. With all of the Blues youth being placed in one home in the American League, the time to transition the 21 year old to the “North American” style is now. Mikkola already plays a heavier style of hockey and skating isn’t an issue but there’s still that issue of having to make decisions on a smaller rink, which would be a change for him.
The Finn wouldn’t be alone as pending RFA Petteri Lindbohm would be returning from shoulder surgery this coming fall. You also have to remember goalie prospect Ville Husso is also Finnish. Having someone else to talk to while in a new country makes a move seem that much easier.
Of course this is pure speculation as the Blues do own Mikkola’s rights until June 1, 2019. So it’s not as if the club is on the verge of losing him to another NHL team. The Blues defensive pool is deep which allows them to move a piece or two, if they want to go that route.
Mikkola just may be a hidden gem in the Blues prospect pool. The club is filled with younger talent like any team but this current crop has a ton of promise.
You never know which players will break out in a lineup. To make it to “the show”. The only way to find out is giving the 21 year old a chance in North America. Currently he plays over 20 minutes a game in Finland top league, time to see what Mikkola can do at the next level.