At 22, Jordan Kyrou isn't a greybeard by any means. But when a team's top prospect takes a few years to get up to speed, it makes fans wonder
The St. Louis Blues gave him a shot in 2018-19 as a first-year pro but he was stuck to limited minutes and was spent the majority of the season in the AHL with San Antonio. Kyrou looked destined to make the Blues full-time, but an early season knee injury, poor performance and a late-season illness limited his chances, with the Blues electing to send him back down to San Antonio.
"Any young player, the NHL’s a tough league," coach Craig Berube said last January after scratching him in favor of veteran Jacob de la Rose. "(Kyrou) needs to become a harder player. That’s the best way I can put it. Like in battles and wall battles. Little things here and there."
But that's in the past, and 2021 has been the Year of Kyrou.
Through seven games, Kyrou currently leads the Blues with three goals and a point-per-game average. From a statistical standpoint, Kyrou's 5.22 points-per-60 is first in the NHL, his 2.98 primary-assists-per-60 is second among players with at least five games played and his shots-per-60 of 11.92 is 16th. It might be a small sample size, but Kyrou has simply been one of the league's best offensive players thus far and, in the vein of Jakub Vrana in Washington, making the most of his opportunities despite not playing on the first line.
Kyrou's rise this season doesn't come as a shock to long-time fans of his game. Kyrou was by far the best player on an average Mississauga Senators GTHL team in 2013-14, becoming the only player to record over a point-per-game in a league often dominated by the Toronto-area squads. He turned that into a successful OHL rookie season in Sarnia and an even better sophomore campaign in his NHL draft year.
The Blues selected Kyrou 35th overall in 2016, but scouts knew he was ready for a breakout as a third-year junior player and with 30 goals and 94 points in 66 games, he was just that. Kyrou went on to win the OHL MVP award the following year after a league-leading 70 assists and a total of 109 points, capping off his junior career as one of the league's most successful playmakers.
"Offensively, he's got high-end skill with his speed and puck-handling ability, elusiveness," Berube said earlier this week. "He's using it, but he's working. I think the biggest difference is he's working and competing with or without the puck. That's what makes him a good player."
Despite a strong junior career, it was clear Kyrou needed a bit of time before becoming a full-time NHLer. His offensive talent wasn't disputed, especially his ability to get pucks to the right people at the right time, but he isn't a big guy and needed to add a bit of muscle to his game and he did just that.
Kyrou's high top-speed makes him so tough to take off the puck when he's moving and that high-energy game fits the style the team has built in the top six. Kyrou's defensive game was an average part of his game during his draft year, but he has found a way to harness his top speed and maximize his performance in his own zone.
"He's like an electric Pokemon out there," said an OHL scout that has followed Kyrou's game since he was 14. "The way he plays, everyone around him wants to keep up and play at a similar level. That's the energy you want in your lineup."
The next step for Kyrou is proving this isn't just a hot flash and that he's the real deal in St. Louis. With Vladimir Tarasenko out long-term following shoulder surgery, the Blues need all the offensive firepower they can get to make up for it. The Blues signed Mike Hoffman to add additional scoring but he has just two points and has fallen to the third line. Instead, Kyrou sits No. 1 in his first season as a full-time NHLer - but how long will the momentum last?
At this point, don't expect it anytime soon.