The St. Louis Blues have been one of the most interesting teams to follow this offseason, given the huge overhaul they performed on their forward group. Out are names like Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, while the team has brought in veteran names like Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly. Outside of those veteran additions though, fans were watching closely the development of several young players and hoping they’d get a chance to play in the NHL this season. Thanks to some injuries to start the year—including ones to Oskar Sundqvist, Robby Fabbri and Nikita Soshnikov, who will all start the season on injured reserve of one form or another—Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Samuel Blais and Ivan Barbashev have all earned spots on the opening night roster.
The early performance of each of these young forwards was enough to make the Blues place Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers, risking and eventually losing him to a claim by the Washington Capitals. While losing Jaskin for nothing isn’t an optimal scenario, opening up opportunities for talented youngsters is an important step towards contending for the Stanley Cup, something the Blues truly believe they can do in the near future.
They are real opportunities too, as the Blues will open the season with just 12 forwards on the roster meaning all the kids will be in the lineup Thursday night (provided nothing else happens over the next couple of days). Thomas and Kyrou especially will be under the microscope as they make their NHL debuts, both star prospects that could make an impact right away.
Thomas, an impressive two-way center that showed last season with the London Knights and Hamilton Bulldogs that he could play nearly any role needed (including defense during penalty kills on occasion), is a prized prospect for the Blues whose development could make or break the team’s fortunes over the next few seasons. Though he may not be able to step into an top offensive role immediately, the fact that St. Louis believes he’s ready to contribute should excite fans to no end.
Kyrou, the dynamic forward who put up 109 points in 56 games for the Sarnia Sting last season, can disrupt games using his incredible skating ability and nose for the net. There’s little reason to doubt that he can put up points at the NHL level too, but there is still work to be done with his physicality and overall game. Blais and Barbashev shouldn’t be overlooked, given their contributions to the club last season and strong preseasons to date.
There’s obviously changes to be made when the team starts to get healthier, but the Blues will have an intriguing forward group all season as they try to bounce back and make the playoffs in 2018-19. Though the goaltending situation with Jake Allen and Chad Johnson may be the biggest factor, all the pieces are there for contention this season in St. Louis.