Tuesday night marked the debut of the St. Louis Blues‘ most hyped defensive prospect since Alex Pietrangelo was taken 4th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. Scott Perunovich finally received his first call-up by the Blues and took the ice at Enterprise Center against the Arizona Coyotes. Donning the no. 48 sweater, the Hibbing, Minnesota native played on the third pair and also received power play time and while not getting on the scoresheet as the St. Louis offense struggled all night (more on that later), he certainly looked like a player who probably isn’t getting sent back to the American Hockey League’s Springfield Thunderbirds any time soon.
The long road to St. Louis
The Blues originally drafted Perunovich 45th overall, in the 2nd round of the 2018 NHL Draft. The left-handed defenseman then spent three seasons playing college hockey for Minnesota-Duluth, where he won back-to-back national championships with the Bulldogs in 2018 and 2019. The team, unfortunately, was unable to go for three in a row in 2019-20 as the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though Perunovich still ended the season with a trophy after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college hockey player. After recording 105 points in 115 games and a legendary college career, Perunovich finally signed his entry-level deal with the Blues and looked to make the team in 2020-21. Unfortunately, he had to undergo shoulder surgery and ended up missing the entire season.
With his shoulder fully healed, Perunovich came into training camp this season ready to finally make the jump to the NHL. With the Blues at the league’s salary cap, he ended up being the odd man out to start the year and was assigned to Springfield in the AHL to start the year. In his short 12-game stint with the Thunderbirds, all he did was register 2 goals and 18 assists along with being named the AHL’s Player of the Month for October. From there, the writing was on the wall that he would be getting his long-awaited call-up.
What can he bring to the Blues this season?
Most Blues fans would agree that the team’s biggest weakness is on the backend. Since Pietrangelo left the team in free agency in 2020, they’ve been missing that true number one defenseman. While it would be putting the cart before the horse to say that Perunovich is going to be that elite player from the jump, what he can possibly be is the missing piece in the top four. Doug Armstrong has rebuilt his defensive core since the Stanley Cup considerably and has assembled three certified top four defensemen in Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, and Justin Faulk. The team has been missing that final spot in the top four, particularly on the left side, and Perunovich could be that missing piece that can transcend the team’s backend to the next level.
After a hot start to the season, the Blues have struggled in November, as they’ve now lost four games in a row after Tuesday’s loss to the lowly Coyotes. The goals have begun to dry up and there have been some leaks defensively. While Perunovich is more likely to contribute more offensively than defensively early on, adding him to the top four alongside a reliable defender like Parayko could ease him into the lineup while also creating a domino effect throughout the defensive pairs, creating a stronger unit overall.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Scott Perunovich era has finally begun in St. Louis. The 23-year-old defenseman joins the Blues who are looking to win their second Stanley Cup in four years and while you should always control expectations early on in a player’s career, it’s always exciting when a team adds a Hobey Baker winner and a proven winner.
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