The St. Louis Blues are one of those NHL teams that seems to be always in the mix. They’ve been consistently good in the regular season and they’ve transitioned into a contending franchise without making a lot of fuss about it.
Now, the club is in the throes of a long-term plan to develop from within while still maintaining their status as contenders for the Cup. To that end, the Blues picked up Brayden Schenn in June and signed Chris Thorburn, Nate Prosser, Vladimir Sobotka, Beau Bennett, Oskar Sundqvist, and Colton Parayko to critical new deals.
With the core locked in and a solid mix of young and veteran talent, the Blues are ready to pick up where they left off last season. This will be their first full season under Mike Yeo, who replaced Ken Hitchcock in February of 2016. He’ll have five new assistants, including David Alexander as the new goalie coach.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored 39 goals last season and piled up 75 points in 82 games last season. The 25-year-old from Yaroslavl put up NHL career-high totals in 2016-2017 and has been steadily building his presence as St. Louis’ preeminent offensive talent. He’ll be back for more in 2017-2018 and should be among the top 10 forwards in the league.
New hire Schenn should be the top line centre for the Blues in 2017-2018. The 26-year-old had 55 points in 79 games last season, including a whopping 17 power play goals with the Flyers. St. Louis will hook him up with Tarasenko, which should generate some top-tier offensive output for both players. The Saskatoon native will also see considerable time on the top power play unit.
25-year-old Jaden Schwartz could complete the top line with Schenn and Tarasenko. He had 55 points in 78 games last season, including 19 goals. Those aren’t career-high numbers for the Wilcox-born forward, but he should see an uptick in digits. The only downside is that Schwartz may not see as much power play time as he did last season.
Alexander Steen finished third on the team in points last season and played through the playoffs with a broken bone in his foot. He’s ready to go, however, and will be set for training camp. The 33-year-old had 51 points in 76 games last season and can play a defensive game. Steen averaged 19:18 of ice time a game last season.
Alex Pietrangelo seized the moment after the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk last season, scoring 18 points in the 20 games after the big trade. The 27-year-old had a total of 48 points in 80 games in 2016-2017 and managed six power play goals. He averaged 28:16 of ice time in the playoffs and put four assists on the board in 11 post-season contests.
Parayko was rewarded with a contract and he’ll be set to step up on the blueline. The St. Albert native had 35 points in 81 games last season, including four goals. He averaged 21:11 of ice time in the regular season, but he really turned it on in the playoffs with five points in 11 games. He averaged 23:43 of ice time a game in the post-season.
Joel Edmundson had a tremendous post-season as well, scoring six points in 11 playoff games – including three goals. The 24-year-old had 15 points in 69 games last season and averaged 17:46 of ice time a game. He paired with Parayko through long stretches of the playoffs and was the shutdown half of the duo.
Jake Allen is coming off his first full season as the starter in St. Louis. He won 33 games in 60 starts, posting a 2.42 goals against average with a .915 save percentage. That’s about on par for his career average. He also put up four shutouts and seemed to thrive with the arrival of new coach Yeo. The 27-year-old should pick up where he left off and could even be a top 10 NHL goalie.
31-year-old Carter Hutton is the backup for the Blues. The Thunder Bay native had 21 starts last season and picked up 13 wins. He’s a good team player and accepts the backup role without grumbling, making him the ideal support candidate for Allen. Hutton saw some time in the post-season, with about 20 minutes of ice time.