The St. Louis Blues have placed defenseman Carl Gunnarsson on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. In his place, the team has recalled Niko Mikkola from the minor leagues. Mikkola was recalled as one of the team’s Black Aces during the playoffs last season, but otherwise has not yet seen the NHL.
Gunnarsson, 33, has dealt with injury and inconsistency this season, the first of the two-year $3.5MM deal he signed in the summer to stay with the Stanley Cup champions. At times this year Gunnarsson has looked completely unlike the steady hand he was in the playoffs, but he is still experienced depth for the team when they eventually hit the postseason once again.
Mikkola meanwhile brings quite a bit more intrigue to the table. Originally a fifth-round pick of the Blues in 2015, the 6’4″ defenseman has now played a year and a half in the minor leagues since coming over from Finland and could potentially be another one of the homegrown talents to find a spot on this roster. While his offensive upside is limited, Mikkola still showed that he can contribute at the highest level when he recorded five points in ten games at the World Championships. Finland won that tournament in 2019, giving Mikkola his second gold medal on the world stage. He was also part of the incredible 2016 World Junior squad that featured names like Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen and Kasperi Kapanen.
Though finding room on the St. Louis blue line is difficult, Mikkola will at least get an opportunity to be around the club and show what he can do.