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Five-year forecast: your 2023-24 St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues have a tough task staying competitive in the NHL's tightest division, even after winning the Stanley Cup. But the future looks solid, thanks to a solid drafting resume and good depth in the pipeline.

Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.

Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included – so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at St. Louis.

FORWARDS

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The Blues don't have a No. 1 prospect in the pipeline, but they do have speed and scoring depth. The top line today will still be the top line in five years, assuming all three are signed to new deals beforehand. If it works, why change it? Keep it status quo and build from there. The second trio has to bring a smile to Blues' fans. Schwartz struggled offensively during the 2018-19 regular season but has a handful of 50-point seasons and should be able to reach that again. Kyrou, the team's top forward prospect, is a creative two-way center coming off a near point-per-game record as an AHL rookie. He's ready for the big show and will be a fantastic secondary middle man while learning under O'Reilly. The Blues hope Kostin can pick up the pace in the AHL after failing to hit 30 points in either of his two seasons with San Antonio, but goals didn't come easy for the club last season as it is. If he finds a way to pick up the pace – and he's just 20 – then St. Louis' right side looks fantastic.

In terms of other notables in the system, Bokk is a name that'll bring big intrigue. Currently in his second full season in the Swedish league, Bokk has done a good job of outperforming kids his age and holds up against older competition. If the skilled winger can add a bit of strength to his solid frame, he'll be a rugged scoring-winger capable of 20-25 goals a season. Thomas will adapt into a solid third-line center, a defensively responsible forward who can pass himself out of a paper bag, something he showed signs of as a rookie. Toropchenko was St. Louis' top player at the past two Traverse City tournaments and could rise up the depth chart if he has a strong pro rookie season this year.

The Blues would love for Fabbri to develop into the scoring winger he was projected to be in Guelph. But at 23 with a pair of serious left knee injuries on his résumé, he has his work cut out for him just to make the roster this season. Does he still have top-six potential? It dwindles with each passing season, but it's too early to give up on him just yet.

DEFENSE

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Fortunately, the Blues have a solid defense base to choose from (and, of course, you have to believe they'll snag a name or two in free agency). Pietrangelo, a UFA after 2019-20, should still hold strong at the age of 34 – maybe he pulls a Mark Giordano and plays his best hockey during the twilight of his career. Dunn will have a few years of top-four hockey under his belt by then and will bring stability and experience to the group, and it's not crazy to think he'll be a consistent 45-50-point guy by then. Parayko has developed into a reliable defenseman that can keep chugging away on the second pairing, giving St. Louis one of the best right-side units in the league. After that, though, is where the team will rely more on its young guns. Walman has been plagued with inconsistency, but still has a raw skill set that makes you think that, in a year or two, he can be a solid everyday contributor that can focus more on the defensive side of things while allowing Parayko to have a bit more freedom with the puck. Perunovich has had a solid NCAA career thus far but will need a year in the AHL after his college tenure ends.

GOALIES

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The verdict is still out on whether Binnington is the real deal: as of writing this, he hasn't even played every team in his own division. He's currently signed a to a two-year "prove it" deal to show that last season wasn't a fluke, which could be a great thing for his motivation after becoming one of the most unlikely playoff heroes in recent NHL history. If he's the guy for St. Louis, he'll be 31 when 2023-24 rolls around and could still have a few prime years left in him. Hofer is still a work in progress, especially after a couple of years of being a busy man on bad junior teams, but he'll have a shot at making the Blues in five years. Ville Husso needs to find his game again in the AHL before being seriously considered for a backup spot, but he doesn't have long until a few other prospects propel past him in the depth chart – just like Binnington did last year.

The Blues are in an interesting spot. They're the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they did so without a player cracking the 80-point barrier during the regular season. That's uncommon, but it shows just how strong the team's depth was. The issue now is just staying alive in the ultra-competitive Central Division (spoiler alert: we didn't pick them to win the division in 2019-20). The team doesn't have a single player signed in five years and two of its biggest stars – O'Reilly and Tarasenko – will be UFAs at the end of 2022-23. The roster could look very different, and even a missed playoff effort or two along the way wouldn't be a bad thing to help boost the prospect base.

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