What to Expect from the St. Louis Blues Defence Next Year

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The St. Louis Blues defence started off the year with one of the best reputations in franchise history. The group single-handedly carried the Blues offence to start the season. They continued as a solid group for the entirety of the year, despite some hiccups involving players like Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson. Confusion in the lineup never seemed to be an issue for the group, though. Their biggest issue was instead consistency on the defensive end. While it remained a problem and is one of the biggest reasons the team missed the playoffs, it seems like the defence began to show some life as the year ended.

Going into the 2018-19 season, the Blues defence could look a bit different. While the top four defensemen solidified their spots, the third line is subject to a lot of change. The exclusion of ageing Bouwmeester could leave a big hole. The team has a strong group of prospects, mixed with a few hardened veterans, all deserving of a spot on the team’s third pairing.

What to Expect from the Defence

 First Pair

Joel Edmundson Alex Pietrangelo

Continuing the burst of success, Edmundson was thrown onto the first pairing with Pietrangelo to start the year. The two quickly became a dangerous duo. They simply couldn’t be beaten when they playing together. The pairing had more ice time than any other defensive pair, tallying over 100 minutes more than the second duo. They were also one of the most productive pairs the Blues had this year, tallying a goal differential of 6; one short of the highest. This duo is almost inarguable, they were one of the strongest defensive pairings and looked like the more time they got together, the better they would get. Don’t expect Edmundson and Pietrangelo to see much time apart in 2018-19.

Second Pair

Vince DunnColton Parayko

This is another pairing that could end up being very effective. Dunn is a strong playmaker with a knack for the offensive side of the game. Combining his speed and playmaking ability with Parayko’s hard shot and strength could be a perfect match. It will take some fine tuning though. The duo played a handful of minutes on the ice together last year and didn’t make much of a splash. Parayko’s lack of production, despite averaging some of the highest ice time on the team, was very disappointing. Still, both players are very young. If they grow together as a defensive pairing, they could end up being one of the top groups in the league.

Vince Dunn

Dunn was truly something special for the Blues. In his rookie year, he tallied 24 points in 75 games. In the barest sense, Dunn’s play was phenomenal. He wasn’t the star of his team, like other rookies defensemen, and still managed to rank in the top ten of the group in points. He matched the play of players like Charlie McAvoy, despite playing considerably less.

Dunn showed that he has much more potential than anyone thought. He was very comfortable playing in a top-four role, or even with top line minutes. It’d actually not be very surprising in the slightest to see Dunn take Edmundson’s spot alongside Pietrangelo. In his rookie season, Dunn played a surprising amount of first pair minutes and generated most of his points from that spot. There isn’t much reason for the Blues to pair Dunn with Parayko, besides the hope that Dunn’s strong play will light a fire in Parayko and turn him into the stellar defenseman the Blues hoped he’d be.

Third Pair

Mitch ReinkeRobert Bortuzzo

This would be a duo very expendable, but well worth at least trying out. Bortuzzo paired up with Dunn at the beginning of last season and really sparked Dunn’s great rookie year. The two ended up being a great pairing, despite Bortuzzo looking fairly weak in the stats column. His style of play is very flexible, though, and Reinke isn’t a much different type of player. If Bortuzzo can light a fire in Reinke like he did with Dunn, the Blues could end up with one of the strongest defensive cores in the league.

Mitch Reinke

Reinke only played one game, a game that ended in a 6-0 loss. However, he was abnormally comfortable in the NHL. It could’ve just been a lucky night for Reinke, but the organization has a lot of faith in the 22-year-old. While the Blues have a lot of other options for a third line left defenseman, giving Reinke a chance in the sun would only help.

Reinke went undrafted and played college hockey at Michigan Tech. He tallied 24 points in 35 games last year, then left for the NHL when Michigan Tech missed the playoffs. He’s shown a lot of strengths as a puck-moving and mobile defenseman. Really, his only flaw is his 5’11” height. He’s a few inches shorter than ideal, but could easily make up for that if he proves he can be consistent. Ideally, Reinke shapes up into a solid middle-of-the-pack defenseman who is able to spark the breakout and move the puck around offensively.

Other Options

Jake Walman

Jake Walman made a great first impression during training camp last year. He is a strong skater with an even stronger shot. His name fell off once the actual season started, though. He played for various AHL teams, only tallying 20 points in 59 games. He wasn’t nearly as effective as analysts thought he’d be. Before the season, it wasn’t uncommon to think that Walman would be in the Blues starting lineup, but something went awry and Walman never made his NHL debut.

He still has hope, though. Walman is a strong defenseman with a lot of upsides, he just needs to act on them. If he finds his footing, he could be similar to Drew Doughty in terms of playing style. With all the competition in the Blues lineup already, Walman will have to go above and beyond to earn a day in the spotlight, but the potential for him to do so is there.

David Noel

David Noel is slowly becoming a popular name in the Blues system. The team acquired Noel in the fifth round of last year’s draft after he totalled 32 points in 65 games in the QMJHL. This past season was even better for the 19-year-old. In 68 games, he had 46 points and looked like a much stronger player.

It’s still too early to tell but Noel could shape into a very strong prospect for the Blues. If he decides to make the jump to the AHL next year, the team will get a first-hand look at what he brings to the table.

Noel had a strong showing last season. He trumps Reinke’s short stature and has been more consistent than Walman, putting him in a good spot to make his NHL debut soon. If he’s able to continue his productivity next year, he’ll be one of the Blues go-to’s when it comes to filling an injury.

Carl Gunnarsson

Gunnarsson, while not a scoring machine, is still a likely candidate for the Blues bottom pairing. Since joining in 2014, Gunnarsson has only combined for 36 points with the team in over 250 games. Still, he’s a viable option for the team. He provides a veteran prescience in the locker room and has shown glimpses of leadership qualities.

Gunnarsson is likely to be the Blues seventh-man this upcoming season, a role he played most of last season as well. He’s reliable enough to provide support if a hole opens in the lineup. He’s also a lot more trustworthy than a rookie would be. The Blues have consistently relied more on their veterans over their rookies when it came to filling a hole in their defence and won’t make any exception for the 31-year-old Gunnarsson.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Nice take but I really hope you are wrong about Reinke being our 6th D-man. If so, we are in trouble. To me, Edmundson is seriously underrated and Parayko is seriously overrated. However, the Blues D is potentially one of the best bluelines in the NHL in my view. I have always been keen on Petteri Lindbohm as well but his health issues have become a concern. Biggest thing Army can do to make the D better is to find some scoring punch to take the heat off the D and goaltenders. You can’t expect to win every game 2-1 or 3-2.

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