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Prospect Pool Overview: St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues don't have an overly deep prospect pool after years of competitive hockey, but they have managed to build an impressive one. Tony Ferrari takes a look at the team's future.
Jake Neighbours

The St. Louis Blues have been competitive for a long time, making the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons and winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. 

Luckily, they've still managed to build a good prospect pool, ensuring that they keep their prospect pipeline stocked with good young talent. Depth is lacking, but they have players worth watching.

Jake Neighbours has been the biggest revelation as the 2020 first-rounder almost stuck with the Blues last season before being sent back to the WHL. There, he captained the Edmonton Oil Kings to a league title and Memorial Cup berth. The young forward had 45 points in just 30 games in the WHL, using his wicked shot to find twine 17 times. Neighbours is a good playmaker who works well off the boards, incorporating power elements into his game to establish body position and roll off opponents to open himself up to space. Neighbours plays a sound fundamental defensive game as well, which will bode well for him as he tries to make the Blues’ lineup full time.

Scott Perunovich has been on the precipice of breaking into the lineup, with fans and media clamouring to see the former Minnesota-Duluth defender in the big show. His offensive skill and playmaking ability are undeniable but his defensive game is still a work in progress. He has been playing pro hockey for two seasons now and at 23 years old, it’s getting to that put-up or shut-up time but with no open spot in the lineup, he may have to take advantage of an absence to secure his role.

Zachary Bolduc had 55 goals in the QMJHL this past season for the Quebec Remparts, finishing second in the league in goal scoring. He builds his game on attacking downhill, using his quick hands to dangle defenders and then fire off a shot on goal in one motion it seems. Bolduc has the tools to be a high-level complimentary player at the next level if paired with a very good playmaker.

Simon Robertson and Dylan Peterson are interesting forward prospects. Robertsson brings some goal-scoring ability and comfortability playing up and down the lineup. He played a checking role with Skellefteå team in the SHL but his growth as a puck carrier in terms of shiftiness with the puck and confidence could make him a legitimate top-six goal scorer. Peterson is more of a traditional big-bodied bottom-six forward who plays a two-way game. His offensive game seems to pop in the big moments but consistency has been an issue.

Joel Hofer is a very good goalie prospect who has played for the Canadian junior program. He found his footing at the AHL level last year although there was some consistency issues. Hofer got his first taste of NHL action as well which gave him a look at the level he needs to get to over the next year or two to battle for an NHL roster spot.

Tyler Tucker is a rugged defender who has a big shot and throws big hits. He has fan favorite written all over him if he can make it to the show. Jimmy Snuggerud and Aleksanteri Kaskimaki are high-end passengers who can thrive when put with a true pay driver up front. It takes a special skill set to play with high-end players.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (23 Overall) - Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
Round 3 (73 Overall) - Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, HIFK (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 3 (88 Overall) - Michael Buchinger, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Round 4 (120 Overall) - Arseny Koromyslov, D, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL)
Round 5 (152 Overall) - Marc-Andre Gaudet, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Round 6 (184 Overall) - Landon Sim, RW, London Knights (OHL)

The Blues' first-round pick out of the U.S. National Team Development Program was one of the best complimentary players on the team, helping add offensive punch to whatever line he was on. Snuggerud was a hard worker who forechecked with pep and caused havoc for the opposition on the breakout, constantly disrupting their attempts to skate or pass their way out of their own end. Snuggerud is a versatile offensive player who can adapt to his linemate's strengths. If asked to be the shooter, he has a quick snapshot and will go to the slot to get it off. If he needs to be the playmaker, he can utilize his teammates to maximize the offensive chance.

Kaskimaki is a finisher who can ride shotgun with a high-end playmaker and fill the net. His shot works best on the rush, attacking the defender with pace and using their legs or stick as a screen. Kaskimaki plays with good speed but can get lost in the shuffle at times when in the offensive zone for long periods. He will need to get more comfortable wading through space or working the cycle as he is mostly a rush attacker at the moment, albeit a very good one.

Michael Buchinger from the Guelph Storm was the Blues’ second third-round pick after Kaskimaki. The young defender is a very good passer and above-average skater who did a lot of his best work on the powerplay. Buchinger’s biggest issues are his inconsistencies in all facets of the game from decision-making to simply what kind of player he is trying to be. In some games he is a puck rusher who engages offensively, others he is a transition passer who lets the forwards do the bulk of the work through the middle of the ice. The Guelph blueliner will have time to figure out exactly what he is as Buchinger is a project with some enticing tools.

Fourth-round pick Arseny Koromyslov is a meat and potatoes defender. He has good size and skates well but he doesn’t use his abilities to their fullest extent, often using his reach to defend without physically engaging all that effectively. Koromyslov will make solid plays with the puck once recovering it but hoping for anything dynamic is out of the question. He plays a safe, simple game.

Marc Andre-Gaudet is a defenseman with a good shot and some decent passing ability but his game as a whole needs work, specifically in his own end. He is a bet on the tools translating to the defensive end as they have offensively. Landon Sim is intriguing if only because he flashed creativity, skill, and a good shot in very limited minutes with the London Knights. He is sometimes shifty on his feet with room to develop a bit more deception in his game. Sim could ultimately be a nice swing in the sixth round.

Strengths

The Blues’ pipeline doesn’t have any clear strength. The wings look most promising though, with Neighbours, Robertsson, and newly drafted Snuggerud highlighting the group. Looking at the center depth as well, there is a real chance that at least a couple of the players currently listed down the middle wind up as wingers based on how their skillset will translate to the NHL level. Bolduc and Kaskimaki stick out immediately if they can’t figure out how to drive play and be effective in their own zone a bit more consistently.

Weaknesses

Depth is the biggest weakness of the Blue pipeline. They have a player or two at most positions that look like good prospects. Neighbours, Snuggerud, and Robertsson fill out the wings but none of them project to be stars. The center position has a handful of players that could play at the next level, but they’ll be a bit one-dimensional and have limited upside. On the back end, they have Perunovich and Tucker but beyond those two - who have risks in their own games - they lack any prospects of significance. Even in goal, Joel Hofer looks good, but Colten Ellis and company behind him are all underwhelming to say the least.

Next Man Up: LW Jake Neighbours

St. Louis doesn’t need any of their young players to jump into the lineup as they have players with NHL experience throughout all four lines and three defensive pairs. With that said, Neighbours was with the team for some time to start last season and they clearly value how he plays the game. The playmaker can drive the net, draw all of the attention and then make a pass to space where a teammate has an awning cage. He works off the boards quite well and has a more capable cycle game.

Neighbours has the skillset to start off in the bottom six and work his way up the lineup as he earns each opportunity. With players such as Nathan Walker, Klim Kostin, or Logan Brown in the bottom six, Neighbours has the opportunity to win a spot in the lineup when training camp arrives and it will shock no one if he does it.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Jake Neighbours, Hugh McGing
C: Zachary Bolduc, Dylan Peterson, Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, Keean Washkurak
RW: Jimmy Snuggerud, Simon Robertsson, Mathias Laferrière, Ivan Vorobyov
LD: Scott Perunovich, Tyler Tucker, Leo Lööf, Arseni Koromyslov
RD: Matt Kessel, Brady Lyle
G: Joel Hofer, Colten Ellis

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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