(HockeySTL) -- The theory surrounding Dmitrij Jaskin of late is that he is solidifying a spot in the NHL. That statement is one that Jaskin has longed for during the last two seasons, but only recently earned.
Jaskin, 21, has been a frequent traveler in his three years with the Blues’ organization. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Jaskin has made countless trips from Chicago, the location of the Blues’ AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, to the parent club.
“To me, you can really screw young kids up,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “He’s having fun playing hockey. We’ve had him up and bounced him around because we really haven’t had a spot. Now we have a spot and we just want to keep it real simple.”
Just 41 games into the season, Jaskin has already received multiple call-ups only to be countered with re-assignments. This time, he hopes the latter is non-existent.
“I think it’s getting a lot better,” Jaskin said. “Every day I have been getting some chances and some time on the ice. It’s getting better every day.”
By way of performance, Jaskin is deserving of every minute of ice time he has earned in the ten games since his most recent promotion. Since being called up in mid-December, the forward hasn’t looked back and certainly hasn’t blinked. His three goals, six points are evidence of this. Though Jaskin’s progression seemed to be slow-moving, his professional career is only a few years old.
“We are getting to see the player that we anticipated three or four years ago him being,” said Hitchcock. “Now, we are starting to see that player evolve every day because he is not having to go onto the ice and think all the time. He just reads and reacts. His anticipation is way ahead of where it was before so he looks quicker on the ice.”
Jaskin says he has never had too much trouble adjusting at the NHL level and he’s rarely looked out of place. The difference this time is that Jaskin is not letting his foot off of the gas pedal.
“I think this is just the evolution of a player, the mental, physical balance coming into his game,” Hitchcock said. “He was always gung-ho when he came up but then he tired. Now, mentally he can keep up to task. There is no drop off.
“What you are seeing now is a player who is starting to emerge as an offensive threat with real weight and size. Now, all of a sudden, the game isn’t near as fast for him as when he first came up. Now, he’s starting to look like a really good offensive player.”
In the past, the coaching staff has been reluctant to use Jaskin in key situations, citing inexperience. Now, the young forward is being used in all situations, including on the red-hot power play. The rest of his time has been spent with Paul Stastny and the two have been a formidable combination.
“They are really talking a lot, communicating a lot,” said Hitchcock. “Paul has really grabbed the two guys and they have really worked together, hard. I think they are just on the same page as far as how they are going to create offensive numbers.”
This is the first extended experience Stastny has had with Jaskin, but in the time he has been with the young forward, he has seen his own numbers increase.
“It’s been good,” Stastny said. “He has stepped up and I think came in and filled a niche that our team kind of needed. He uses his body for puck protection and makes good plays. He’s just getting more and more comfortable. The more games he gets under his belt, the more he will be able to relax a little bit.
“He’s a highly-touted player. We’ve known that from the get-go.”
Jaskin said playing with Stastny has made it easy for him to elevate his game, also pointing to the consistency of the line combinations.
“He’s a great player so he’s looking for me and sees me,” Jaskin said. “It’s awesome. He can make so many plays. He passes through legs and sticks. I just get open and wait for it.
“I think we have found some chemistry. It’s really nice and easy to play with him. He’s a great player.”
While things are undeniably going well, Stastny still notices some nervousness in Jaskin’s game, but said that will disappear in time.
“He’s getting there,” said Stastny. “There are still times where maybe he is scared to make a play here or there but through communication and through playing with him for awhile, I think he’s going trust his instincts.”
But overall, it’s been an easy transition this time for Jaskin because he knows he fits with the team and as familiarity kicks in, things start to become automatic.
“He doesn’t have to pause and think and regroup anymore,” Hitchcock said. “Things are automatic. He is comfortable in the environment; he’s comfortable in the locker room so that part of the tension isn’t there anymore.”
“That comes with the time,” Jaskin said. “You learn every day and guys help me a lot last time I came in here. I feel very comfortable every time.”
The ability of Jaskin to elevate his game has allowed the Blues many more options. To some who never thought it would come, it’s a surprise to see Jaskin finding consistency. The Blues knew it was coming.
“You are just seeing the evolution of a real good young player now,” said Hitchcock.