August 31 in 31: St. Louis Blues
After climbing to the top of the mountain for the first time in their 52 season history the St. Louis Blues will see several of their prospects graduating to either full-time NHL roles or up to their AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage.
As an aside, the depth of the Blues system has taken some serious blows — in the best way possible — in terms of depth. Over the last year, they’ve seen their top prospect Robert Thomas play his way onto the team and settle into a full-time role. As well as top prospects Vince Dunn and Ivan Barbashev finding ways to carve out roles with the Blues as well.
After spending less than half the season up with the Blues Jordan Binnington’s storybook performance between the pipes in the playoffs earned him a two-year deal, during which time one must assume the starting position is his to lose.
Another Blue whose strong playoff performance earned him an extension was Sammy Blais.
Blais’ willingness to adjust his style of play to that of someone who is ready to charge headlong into dangerous areas to fish out pucks, engage physically and provide an edge to the Blues’ game caught the attention of the St. Louis brass, who in turn, are giving Blais a chance to earn a full-time NHL spot.
In terms of new players vying to earn a spot with the big boys, Jordan Kyrou has a distinct edge. He’s made the Blues look very smart for snagging him 35th overall in the 2016 Entry Draft.
After piling up 290 points in 250 games in the OHL, Kyrou went on to record 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in 47 games in his rookie season in the AHL. His 0.91 points per game were seventh-highest amongst U22 players in the AHL last season.
Kyrou has the best chance of any non-NHL Blues player to earn a spot on the opening-night roster.
Alexei Toropchenko will hope to build on his wildly successful OHL playoff and Memorial Cup run as he steps into his first season in the AHL. The hulking winger struggled to consistently produce in the regular season during his tenure with the Guelph Storm but caught fire during the postseason.
Toropchenko filled the net during the OHL playoffs when he recorded 13 goals in 24 games. Even then he finished third on his team in goal-scoring behind Nick Suzuki (16 goals) and Isaac Ratcliff (15 goals).
The winger finds most of his success when he’s posted up in front of the net, or driving hard to the net off the rush. He’s going to need to work on his speed to be effective at the next levels, but there are some tangible skills here that look like they’ll translate nicely.
Perunovich continues to pile up accolades as he progresses from a prospect with upside to a player that looks like he’s well on his way to being not only an NHL player but an effective one at that.
Through his first two seasons with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, Perunovich has already:
- Won two NCAA titles
- Twice been named to the NCHC First All-Star team
- Twice been named the NCHC’s Best Offensive Defenseman
- Twice been named to the NCAA West All-American Team (once to the First team, once to the Second)
- Named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team
- Won the Tim Taylor Award (NCAA Top Collegiate Rookie)
- Won a World Junior Bronze Medal
The Minnesota native is a leader on the ice who commands the puck, and thus the pace of play. The hallmark of his game is his skating ability and transitional play He possesses an impressively fluid and powerful stride and uses immaculate edgework to deceive opposing defenders as he flies through the neutral zone with the puck.
He has high-end vision and is skilled enough to make creative and difficult passes seem routine. In fact, Perunovich does such a good job of finding the open man, that it’s almost easy to forget how difficult it is to do what he’s doing. More than once during last season’s championship run commentators found themselves saying “There’s another great pass by Perunovich” as if it was something they’d just come to expect from him.
Perunovich is returning to the Bulldogs for his Junior season, but it’s looking more and more like he’s going to be wearing St. Louis Blue sooner than later.
The German winger spent his DY+1 playing with the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL where he finished as the third-highest scoring U20 player in the league, he recorded eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points despite seeing less than 13 minutes per game.
Bokk is a highly-skilled winger whose best traits — his ability to spread the puck effectively and create offense for his linemates — have only improved as time has gone on. While Bokk’s top-speed could use some work, he uses his edges is creative ways to elude defenders and open up dangerous passing lanes around the net. He possesses above-average vision and has enough skill to be consistently dangerous with the puck on his stick. These attributes have culminated in Bokk being one of the better possession players in the league as he finished with a 56.08 CF%.
Look for Bokk to improve his goal-scoring totals this year as he took just 76 shots in 47 games last year– he shot 11% last year and could see a reasonable bump in that total. This season Bokk should see more ice time as he’s surely more comfortable with the pace of play at this level.
Bokk will return to the SHL this coming season but will be playing with Rogle BK.
Lafferiere’s third season in the QMJHL was a successful one, to say the least. He recorded new career highs in goals (28), assists (46) and points (74) finishing second in scoring on the newly named Cape Breton Eagles. The winger also finished 9th in scoring among U19 scorers in the QMJHL.
He showed improvement across the board in his game from his goal-scoring ability to his commitment to being a responsible defensive player.
Most importantly, according to Mitch Brown’s ‘CHL Tracking Project’ Laferriere was one of the best passers in the entire CHL.
Shot Assists/60: 97th
Primary Shot Contributions/60: 87th
Expected Primary Assists/60: 96th
Dangerous Shot Assists/60: 93rd
One-Timer Shot Assists/60: 95th
Lafferiere loves to create off the rush and uses his quick hands, strong frame and improving footwork to put defenders on their heels. The winger displays vision far more advanced than that of a typical sixth-round pick.
Despite scoring 28 goals, Laferriere hasn’t yet shown an ability to effectively create shooting opportunities for himself, though. He shot 15% last season and it’s a good bet that he’s likely to regress a bit in that regard unless he can create more opportunities for himself. This is going to be the biggest issue for him moving forward. He’s finished plays created by others at a decent pace, but until he finds a way to make himself a dangerous shooter his ultimate ceiling is limited.
Once considered a top-five option in his draft class, Kostin has seen his stock and level of play drop off a cliff over the last few years. It’s been a rough start to Kostin’s pro career, to say the least. From seeing himself drop out of the top-10, and eventually the top-30 on draft day to going long stretches without finding the scoresheet over the last two years it’s hard to pin down who he is exactly.
Despite being physically ready and seemingly having a good tool-set he’s struggled mightily to find a way to produce consistently in the AHL. Through his first 133 games with the Rampage, he’s recorded just 16 goals, 36 assists, and 52 points.
Kostin is a particularly frustrating case because he’s massive standing at 6’3 and well over 200lbs. He’s capable of carrying defenders on his back while controlling the puck on his stick. At times he’s shown the ability to create offense for players around him as well as being a talented shooter in his own right. Somehow, though, despite a tantalizing package of skill, size and strength Kostin just hasn’t been able to put everything together yet.
Internationally, Kostin has been very successful recording 14 points across two World Junior Championship tournaments and finishing just under a point per game in both the World Junior U18 Tournament and World Hockey Challenge U17.
Becoming a legitimate top-6 forward in the NHL is starting to look like a real reach, but he could still settle in as a useful middle-6 forward if he can find a way to improve over the coming season.
Following a successful NCAA career, it looked like Foley had a legitimate shot at being an NHL player. Sadly, a serious concussion kept him off the ice for the entirety of last season and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon.
When he’s healthy Foley is a buzzsaw who can beat defenders one on one and creates the majority of his chances from the most dangerous areas of the ice. Last we saw, his stride could use some work, but regardless, he finds a way to get around the ice quickly and has enough individual skill to hold his own offensively. He’s unafraid of engaging physically and is effective along the boards.
There’s legitimate talent here if he can find a way back onto the ice.
Prospect Depth Chart:
Nikolaj Krag Christensen
Top 20 Fantasy Prospects
- Dominik Bokk, RW
- Jordan Kyrou, RW
- Scott Perunovich, D
- Klim Kostin, RW
- Nikita Alexandrov, C
- Mathias Lafreniere, RW
- Alex Toropchenko, RW
- Mitch Reinke, D
- Joel Hofer, G
- Erik Foley, LW
- Keean Washkurak, C
- Hugh McGing, C
- Tyler Tucker, D
- Colten Ellis, G
- Zach Sanford, LW
- Nick Lappin, RW
- Jake Walman, D
- Tanner Kaspick, C
- Andreas Borgman, D
- Adam Musil, C
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