The St. Louis Blues offense had a fairly interesting 2017-18 season. The team missed the postseason by a single point after a tough loss to the Colorado Avalanche. They also saw a very unbalanced amount of contribution from the lineup. Players like Ivan Barbashev and Dmitrij Jaskin had disappointing years, but Kyle Brodziak and Patrik Berglund were unstoppable as the year came to an end.
With such an uneven balance of powers in the lineup and so many promising prospects in the system, the group of 12 forwards could be a hard choice when the 2018-19 season begins.
Anticipating the Lineups for the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues
This was the Blues star line this season. When the team needed a boost, this was the trio they sent onto the ice. For the first few months of the season, all three sat among the top ten scorers in the league and weren’t slowing down. They were able to score at least one point in almost every game they were together, excluding a few shutouts. The line was one of the most productive in Blues history and has to get back together if the team wants to succeed.
Tarasenko is, surprisingly, the iffy piece in the trio. The team’s supposed star left a lot to be desired last season. After three consecutive seasons of over 70 points, Tarasenko only totaled 66 this year. His lack of production ultimately led to this line breaking up, considering he was the scorer of the three and couldn’t seem to score. Tarasenko will need to start scoring more if the line, and team, wants to be successful.
Alexander Steen – Patrik Berglund – Vladimir Sobotka
This is where the lines get harder to make. This trio seems like it’d be a good fit of hardened NHL veterans, all capable of providing experience and a good amount of stamina. The line doesn’t look like a top-six group, though. It feels more like a third line simply because there isn’t much scoring to be done between the three players. The Blues will have to put a lot of trust into the three if they’re thinking about giving them all second-line minutes, but all three players have shown flashes of reliability and productivity. Deciding whether to give the three a second-line level of ice time would, ultimately, boil down to whether they could sustain this productivity as a line.
The team made the terrible decision trading away Paul Stastny, which left a huge hole in the second-line-center role. Berglund embraced this role, to the surprise of almost everyone. In his last 16 games, Berglund scored 11 points. Before that, he had 14 points in 40 games. He was one of the keys to the Blues push for the playoffs in late March and April. The team made this evident by increasing his ice time as the season came to an end. In the last game of the team’s season, which was a must-win, Berglund played the most minutes behind Schenn, Schwartz and Steen.
All of the scoring put a lot more responsibility on Berglund’s plate and he seemed to handle it well. This isn’t new for Berglund, who has had flashes of greatness throughout his whole career. This time he seemed a bit more reliable. He’s 29 years old and he’ll be entering the second year of a four-year contract worth $3.85 million a year in cap space. The team won’t let that money slide. With such a good end of the year, Berglund is currently the team’s best bet for manning the middle of the second line.
The troubles continue for the third line. Ideally, the third line would be a group of hard-workers who are able to score a decent amount of points for the team. The trouble is, the Blues don’t have three solid players that can fit together to accomplish that goal. Even this trio is a hard mix. While Brodziak and Thompson would both blend together great and play a power-forward’s gamestyle, Soshnikov can’t fit into that role. Soshnikov doesn’t have the size or physicality of the other two players. While Thompson’s size and skill set will likely be great paired with Soshnikov, Brodziak doesn’t have the speed to match either of them. No matter how the dice are rolled, one player would be left out in this line’s playing style.
With all of the confusion around this line, it seems like Brodziak would be a terrible fit. He might be, but the Blues should be in favor of at least giving him a chance. Brodziak was another crucial player for the Blues. From behind the scenes, the 33-year-old veteran orchestrated the Blues bottom six. He seemed to be successful in any situation the team put him in. In the month of March alone, Brodziak tallied 12 of his 33 points on the year.
He showed he can be a strong playmaker and leader in the lineup, which would make him a perfect fit between Shoshnikov and Thompson. Again, the pairing is a risk. Brodziak isn’t as young or fast as the wingers. There’s also a good chance his strong style of play doesn’t do much at all when he’s with two young players. But in the off chance that the trio does work, they’ll easily be one of the best bottom-six lines in the league.
Scottie Upsall – Ivan Barbashev – Samuel Blais
This is the trickiest line of them all. The Blues don’t have enough of one consistent player-type to make the fourth line a group of hard-hitting goons or mediocre scorers. Instead, the line will have to be a mix of veteran talent, provided by Upshall and possibly Brodziak, and youngsters fighting for a roster spot. To start the season, those youngsters will likely be Barbashev and Blais, who both showed they can compete at the NHL level, but were never consistent. As the year goes on, though, the team will have a plethora of prospects to try to fit into the roster. So unless this trio is able to produce well, all three of their spots are open for the taking.
The Blues have a lot of other options to fit into their lineup. A lot of prospects had great 2017-18 seasons and earned a shot at the NHL, but the team will be challenged to give them all the chances they deserve.
Jordan Kyrou is a dream-come-true for the St. Louis Blues. He was picked up in the second round of the 2016 NHL draft, after a mediocre season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. After that, though, he seemed to explode offensively. He managed 94 points in 66 games during the 2016-17 season, numbers more suited for a middle-of-the-pack first-round draft pick. This season, he blew away Blues fans with 109 points in only 56 games. He was one of the OHL’s top players all year and quickly became the team’s top prospect.
The Blues assigned Kyrou to the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday, to give the team a bit more firepower for the Calder Cup Playoffs. He’s expected to work wonders in Chicago, where the only other noteable Blues prospect is Mackenzie MacEachern. This will give Kyrou a big spotlight to shine under.
He doesn’t have to dominate the Calder Cup playoffs, though. While, yes, he’s more than expected to, it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t play at an elite level. The jump from the OHL might be a little daunting. The Blues will likely make their decision on Kyrou during the 2018 training camp. If he has a good camp, he could end up slotting himself as high as the second-line center. Of course, a strong showing with the Wolves only helps that. The sky is the limit for Kyrou, but he’ll have to earn it.
Klim Kositn is a name Blues fans haven’t heard much about, but he had a quietly successful year with the San Antonio Rampage. Kostin was almost always a top-line player for the Rampage and tallied 28 points in his AHL rookie season.
Kostin showed glimpses of what was expected when the Blues precariously picked him with the 31st pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old had worked wonders with Russia’s U17 and U18 teams in international tournaments, but was never very strong in Russian pro leagues like the KHL and MHL. Still, he was supposed to be a very skilled, strong, fast playmaker. While the his hype may have been a little exaggerated, he was still impressive to watch in the AHL.
He has a lot of solid competition fighting for a chance in the NHL. If he wants to break the roster, he’ll have to produce a lot more than 28 points, or at least start off the year with a strong showing. While there is the option for Kostin to impress during training camp, it likely won’t be enough to get him a spot to start the year like Kyrou could earn. Still, a strong start to next year’s AHL season could be enough to give Kostin a position as one of the bottom six’s wingers.
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