If Sergei Kostitsyn’s progress continues on its current path, the Montreal Canadiens are going to have a full-blown sibling rivalry on their hands.
The younger member of the Flying Kostitsyns entered this season with just 52 regular season NHL games under his belt, but a lot of promise in the eyes of many observers. That despite the fact Montreal got him with the 200th pick in the 2005 draft.
Kostitsyn looked like he belonged in the NHL from the moment he was called up from the American League less than halfway through last season. Like a number of his teammates, Kostitsyn’s best hockey came before the playoffs, but he by no means disappeared in the post-season.
Sergei’s development was taking root at the same time his older brother Andrei – currently out for an undetermined amount of time with a concussion sustained Saturday night – was having a bona fide breakout year playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev.
But the early returns this year indicate Sergei, who’s just 21 years old, can be at least as good - if not better - than his very skilled 23-year-old brother.
Sergei and Andrei both posses terrific shots, but what’s starting to set the younger Kostitsyn apart from a lot of players in the league is his ability to handle the puck. He’s almost becoming Kovalev-esque with his ability to weave in and out of swishing sticks in the offensive zone.
Of course, when you’re a terrific stickhandler there’s a tendency to try too much with the puck; something Sergei Kostitsyn and Kovalev are both guilty of at times.
What Canadiens management and fans should be absolutely ecstatic about is the fact Kostitsyn seems to be channeling his inner puckhound. In addition to his offensive contributions this year, he’s also shown a willingness to hustle on the backcheck and is starting to pursue loose pucks with a real sense of purpose.
There’s a fella in Detroit named Henrik Zetterberg who’s carved out a tremendous career (after being drafted 210th overall) thanks in large part to his relentless determination in chasing down opposing players and pucks.
The closer Kostitsyn-the-younger comes to being that kind of player, the more palatable losing some of its veteran forwards to free agency becomes for Montreal.
This article also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.