Before Dmitrij Jaskin became a physical force for the St. Louis Blues, he honed his game with the Moncton Wildcats, and later with the Chicago Wolves. His willingness to battle, ability to drive the puck to the net using his powerful frame, along with his soft hands and wicked shot make him a threat to score every time he is on the ice and be a dominant power forward in the NHL.
This season, Jaskin is focused on adding depth and grit for the Blues while occasionally chipping in with secondary scoring, building upon previous stops along his young, yet accomplished hockey journey.
Jaskin was born in Omsk, Russia but grew up in the Czech Republic. His family moved from Russia when he was only 8 months old so that his father, Alexej Jaskin, who played professional hockey for Khimik Voskresensk in the Soviet Championship League, could further pursue his professional hockey career.
“I probably started skating around two or three years old. I spent a lot of time on the ice growing up with both my parents teaching me to skate,” recounts Jaskin. “As I got into hockey, my father helped me progress from my earliest stages to where I am now. He is everything from a coach, scout, or agent for me. He is always there to help me in any way that he can.”
Playing minor hockey in the same city where his father was playing professionally was special for Dmitrij and he fondly cherishes those memories. “The time I spent there was great, I played on the minor Vsetín team while my dad was playing for main Vsetín club which was one of the best teams. Vsetín is a great town for hockey and has a population of about 30,000 people. It is a beautiful place located in the middle of mountains. I really enjoyed being there. I go back there every summer when I can. I lived there for 15 years and I have lots of friends and people I know there.”
At 17 years old, Jaskin was transferred to HC Slavia Praha of the Czech 1st National Hockey League, which is the second-highest league in the country, playing against men, which Jaskin said aided in his development. “There was so much to learn about the professional game, the strength and skills of the players and the speed of the game was so high. It was a great learning experience for me. Being around great players who I could watch and learn from was really helpful.”
As Jaskin’s game matured, he began representing the Czech Republic at the International level including the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and Two World Junior Championships. “Every tournament and every game is special. It is an honor to play for your Country and don that Jersey”.
One Championship that particularly stands out for him was the 2012 World Juniors held in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. “I never played in North America up to this point, and when I got to Edmonton, a place with so much hockey history and such passionate fans it really struck me how amazing and special it is to play hockey here. To this day, when we play at Rexall Place in Edmonton those memories from my World Juniors come rushing into my head. The same goes for Calgary, the fans there are so passionate about hockey.”
At the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Jaskin was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the second round, 41st overall and reflects on what turned out to be an exhausting draft experience. “That season, lots of scouts came to talk to me and I knew I might get selected in the draft. That is where things got a little hectic. I was supposed to come two days before the draft to meet with the teams who had been speaking to me throughout the season. For whatever reason, I had flight problems and could only come a day before. I did not sleep at all that night and the next day I had nine meetings. It was a hectic experience that I will always remember. Interestingly, my last meeting before the draft was with St. Louis. I had a feeling that some teams who spoke to me were interested but you can never really tell where you will go. From there, I remember hearing names being called at the draft and just waiting for when my name would be announced. That moment came when the Blues selected me. It was such an honour and great experience that I will never forget.”
In an interesting turn of events, Jaskin was actually drafted to the NHL before being drafted by a Junior club. In 2012, a whole year after being drafted to the NHL, he was selected in the CHL Import Draft by the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL.
“I had great year before the Blues drafted me, however, the following season did not go the way the Blues wanted. I got injured and was not playing many minutes when the Blues staff were there to watch me. The decision to come to Moncton was directed by the Blues so they could watch me play more. I decided coming to North America was the best thing for me, and it ended up being exactly that. I don’t think if I stayed in Praha, I would be playing in the NHL now.”
The 2012-13 season in Moncton proved to be incredibly productive. Jaskin tallied 46 goals and 53 assists for 99 points in only 51 games. Nevertheless, the adjustment to the North American game and culture was challenging. “Due to my injury from the previous season, I did not come over to North America with all the size I needed. Also, coming to a new culture and language was difficult, especially in the first month not really speaking any English. Luckily there was another Russian player on the team, Ivan Barbashev. We spent a lot of time together and went through the ups and downs. Ultimately, my time in Moncton was excellent. I cannot say enough great things about the organization. I appreciate the chance I was given to play there and also appreciate how they helped me with my English and got me through the adjustment period. That season was just perfect.”
At the end of that season, Jaskin was recalled to the NHL to make his debut with the St. Louis Blues. “After my season in Moncton was over I didn’t know what would happen. I thought the season was over and I was ready to go home. The organization suggested I stick around for a little while because there was a chance I could get a contract with the Blues. Sure enough, I ended up getting the contract. At that point, I probably hadn’t skated for two weeks. The next step was flying out to meet the team in Nashville where they were on a road trip. Before my first game the team was preparing me and getting me back into top form. That whole call up experience leading up to my NHL debut was a hard couple of weeks but I will always remember it. My first game was against Vancouver. I can’t really remember the details of my first shift but I know it was so much fun. I think our team won the game in a shoot out.” Jaskin would go on to play another game for the Blues to cap off his remarkable 2012-13 campaign.
With a taste of NHL experience and 2 games under his belt, Jaskin knew there was a long road ahead of him to make the NHL on a full-time basis. “My first NHL experience taught me that there were so many things I had to work on. Junior hockey is totally different from the NHL. I needed to work on all aspects of my game including, strength, skills, and skating. It is also helpful to watch and be around players who have played in the league. You take what you can from them, for example observing how they play in certain situations and then developing those skills for yourself. Hockey is a game of details from tiny details to huge details.”
Over the next two seasons, Jaskin would split time between the Blues and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. He spent the bulk of the 2013-14 season in Chicago where he recorded 15 goals and 14 assists in 42 games. His strong play as a power forward earned him recalls to the NHL where he played a total of 18 games for the Blues that season and scored his first NHL goal against Antti Raanta of the Chicago Blackhawks.
That 2013-14 season exposed Jaskin to the life and challenges of being a professional hockey player. “It’s crazy when you are reassigned every month. Going up and down between the NHL and AHL is always challenging and stressful. It’s an emotional roller coaster; you get excited when they call you up and its hard news to get sent down. As a young player full of ambition and excitement, playing in the NHL to be assigned to the AHL is challenging. However, it all depends on the player and the way he takes it. Every situation is different. Sometimes you look at the roster and you know someone is coming back so you kind of prepare yourself. There is only two ways to take that call, either you get disappointment and stop working hard or it gives you the motivation to get better and get back to the NHL. You have to be mentally tough and at the end of the day it all counts. In instances when I got sent down, the coaches said I did a great job and outlined what I needed to work on. Usually the message was just to get stronger and learn the game a little better. It’s the same message they have always been telling me which still applies today. It’s never a bad thing to spend some time in the AHL and when you get called back to the NHL, you really appreciate and make the most of the chance that you are given.”
Jaskin would continue to earn his stripes the following season, playing 54 games with the Blues and 18 with the Wolves. He concedes that his time in Chicago over those two seasons really aided him in his development to play in the NHL. “I was lucky to play in Chicago. The coaches there are great. They worked with me every day to get me prepared for the NHL, and I am thankful for that experience. In that locker room is a great group of guys that really stick together.”
Jaskin’s progress and development during his time with the Wolves were indicative of his increased confidence, strength, and ability to play at the NHL. He is also getting a helping hand from mentors and role models on the Blues. “Last year it was Barrett Jackman, this year David Backes or Alexander Steen and other guys who have been in the league a little longer like Steve Ott. All the guys are trying to help whether offering advice or firing me up.”
He now feels like his game has come a long way since his first stint in the NHL. “With every game and practise comes more experience and you get settled down and don’t run around as much. It’s all about reading the game and anticipating where the puck will go next or how the play will develop.”
From a players perspective, Jaskin explains what makes the Blues team so dynamic. “The team is so full of high end talent and their work ethic is very strong. Players communicate with each other and during drills line mates come together and discuss plays. Every player is mentally prepared before a game. It’s great to watch and see firsthand a player like Vladimir Tarasenko. He works on shooting every day along with a lot of other skills. He is ready and focused for every game.”
Jaskin also speaks highly of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) which is the union for players in the AHL and ECHL. “The services and programs they provide are perfect, for medical or anything else. I have found they are always there to help the players. I’ve been very impressed with that. I recommend their Twitter feed for great reads about other players.”
Blues fans have a lot to be excited about with Dmitrij Jaskin, as he continues to develop before their eyes into one of the most dominant power forwards in the NHL.