While we are only roughly one-eighth of the way through the season, there are plenty of storylines surrounding the top prospects for the St. Louis Blues. With the team having several players enter COVID-19 protocol, the Blues have had to rely on several rookies, playing them all over the lineup early on in the season. Now that there’s been a decent sample size of games played, it’s time to take a look at how some of the Blues’ top prospects have fared in 2021-22.
The 1st round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Jake Neighbours made the team out of training camp and was given a nine-game trial at the NHL level. In those nine games, Neighbours tallied one goal and one assist and showed flashes that he can play at this level. Unfortunately for him, the Blues are up against the salary cap and had to make room for the returning Oskar Sundqvist, so the team ultimately sent Neighbours back to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Because Neighbours is under twenty years old, he is not eligible to play in the minor leagues, which means he will finish this season at the junior level.
Hopefully, Neighbours will be able to use his cup of coffee in the NHL as a great learning experience and will thrive in the WHL this season, becoming even more prepared for that next step come training camp next September. It would not be surprising to see Neighbours win a roster spot again next season and skip playing in the AHL altogether.
For my money, the most exciting prospect in the Blues organization is defenseman Scott Perunovich. The 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL draft has set the AHL on fire to start the season. Through nine games for the Springfield Thunderbirds, Perunovich has sixteen points and was named the AHL’s Player of the Month for October. He was set to be called up with Torey Krug entering COVID protocol, but cap constraints made that move fall through and the Blues called up Calle Rosen instead. The former Hobey Baker winner at the University of Minnesota-Duluth looks to be on the fast track to the NHL. Don’t be surprised to see Perunovich playing in the top four for the Blues defence by the end of the season.
After spending last season on loan with Avangard Omsk of the KHL and winning the Gagarin Cup in the process, Klim Kostin joined the Blues in the final week of the 2020-21 season. He played in two games for the team and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs, which left many to wonder what exactly his role could be for the organization in 2021-22. Kostin came into training camp and won himself a roster spot and while he did not start on opening night, he has played in every game since and appears to have finally arrived at the NHL level after a slower development than Blues fans may have envisioned. The 1st round pick in the 2017 NHL draft has two goals and four points through ten games this season and has found himself a home alongside fellow Russians Ivan Barbashev and Pavel Buchnevich on the third line.
Barring any setbacks, this should be the last time Kostin is even considered amongst the team’s prospect pool as he has graduated to being a full-time NHL player. Along with offensive prowess, he brings an element of physicality that is perfect for the Blues system and he should be a fun rookie to watch develop throughout the season.
After being called up unexpectedly following Ville Husso entering COVID protocol, Joel Hofer made his first career start against the San Jose Sharks last Thursday and didn’t look out of place as he registered his first career win. On top of that, with a secondary assist in the third period, Hofer became just the fifth goaltender in NHL history to record a point in their debut.
While Hofer is expected to return to Springfield once Husso is cleared to play, he can go back down to the AHL with the confidence knowing he can win at the NHL level and that if he performs well at the minor league level this season, he can push for the backup spot next season.
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