Mikkola, 26, was a fifth-round pick of the Blues at the 2015 draft. By that point, Mikkola had gotten into just a handful of high-level professional hockey games, but in the year after he was drafted Mikkola took on a role as a regular defenseman on a strong KalPa Kuopio team. Mikkola spent three seasons at KalPa and then spent one season playing for Tappara Tampere before making the jump to North American hockey. Mikkola had established himself as a top-four quality defenseman in Liiga and needed to prove he could adjust and grow on North American ice.
Mikkola spent two seasons playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, slowly growing into one of their most dependable defensive defensemen. Mikkola’s success in San Antonio led him to a call-up in St. Louis, and Mikkola hasn’t been back to the AHL since that point. At the NHL level, Mikkola has averaged third-pairing minutes and seen time on the Blues’ second-unit penalty kill.
His offense isn’t what makes Nikkola an effective professional defenseman, it’s his size, reach, and overall defensive game. Mikkola is six-foot-four and weighs nearly 210 pounds, and he is able to effectively utilize that size to help clear traffic in front of Jordan Binnington. At 26 years old, Mikkola is in the thick of his prime and should be able to handle a role as a defensive specialist in St. Louis moving forward.
A $1.9MM deal is a very reasonable cost to the blues for what Mikkola brings to the table. The Blues, like all teams, are cap-conscious, although their need to maximize every cap dollar is made more important by their desire to remain a Stanley Cup contender for the next several years. Mikkola provides a cost-certain NHL-caliber defenseman, at least for next season. Beyond that point, Mikkola will have freedom to choose where he wants to play and the Blues will have to make the choice on whether he’s worth a pricier long-term investment.