St. Louis Blues prospect Niko Mikkola has had a breakthrough season for KalPa in the Finnish elite league. The 20-year-old defenseman put up respectable point totals in the regular season, scoring four goals and 11 assists in 56 games. In the playoffs, he has recorded one goal and two assists so far.
The first thing that stands out about Mikkola is his physicality and toughness. He is never hesitant to lay heavy hits and he is good at playing the body. He even has some nastiness to his game. He is very aggressive and can get under the skin of his opponents. He has the strength to be highly effective in front of his own net and in the corners. He also defends well with his stick. Mikkola had 89 penalty minutes in the regular season in 2016-17.
He is also mobile, showing good agility and speed which allows him to jump into the offense. He is a well-coordinated skater for a 6’4 defenseman. The offensive side of his game has definitely improved since the draft year. While Mikkola’s puck skills aren’t high end, he looks more calm and in control with the puck under pressure. He makes a good first pass out of the zone. His slap shot is heavy with good velocity.
Mikkola has become a top defenseman this season, playing on a strong KalPa team that is currently in the finals. With the way Mikkola has performed this season, I think the St. Louis’ fifth round pick has the potential to develop into a reliable NHL defenseman for the Blues. However, first he might need time in the AHL to develop his game even further.