3 Blues That Can Step Up in O’Reilly’s Absence

The St. Louis Blues will be without their captain Ryan O’Reilly for at least the next four games, starting with the home game against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 28.

Related: Blues Weekly: Buchnevich, Saad, Youngsters, Road Trip & More

Clearly, the Blues will miss O’Reilly a lot, as he’s their number one center and best defensive forward. He hasn’t missed a game since coming to the Blues at the start of the 2018-19 season, a total of 214 games. The Blues have the depth to stay afloat without him, and there are a few that can step up in his absence.

Brayden Schenn

It looks like the Blues will look for Brayden Schenn to take over the top line duties from O’Reilly in the first game of his absence. We’ve seen Schenn have the ability to be a solid two-way forward since he came to St. Louis, but he’s been inconsistent over the past couple of seasons.

Brayden Schenn St. Louis Blues
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This is a big spot for him, as he gets bumped up a line and will be playing with David Perron, which should be no issue for him. He’s had a good start to the season as well, with four points, including a goal, in five games. Whether this means much or not, he has a plus-5 in the plus/minus category, which isn’t surprising considering the Blues’ goal differential through five games.

The Blues’ depth allows them to have a number of two-way centers in their organization that can continue to shift between roles, and bumping Schenn up makes sense to start. If he struggles, we could see Tyler Bozak or Robert Thomas step into this role.

Either way, Schenn could return to his 2017-18 self, when he scored nearly 30 goals and had 70 points in his first season wearing the blue note.

Robert Thomas

This is a big opportunity for Thomas to step into a bigger role and do what he does best; make plays in the offensive zone. He likely won’t change lines yet, but he could play more minutes.

He has actually played second-line minutes despite technically being the center of the third line. His chemistry with Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko has been terrific in the last couple of games, as they’ve produced a lot.

Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Thomas has had a solid start to the season with five assists in five games. But he still needs to shoot the puck more, as he and Jordan Kyrou have a tendency to not shoot the puck when they should. Another significant number for Thomas this season is that he is 32-for-64 in the faceoff circle, which is a solid 50 percent — he hasn’t been anywhere near that number in his career.

We could see expanded minutes and an entirely new role for Thomas during the games that O’Reilly misses, which will be a big factor in how we view him moving forward.

David Perron

I’m not sure that Perron can step up more than he already has, but this will be one of the first multi-game periods without O’Reilly as his center in quite some time. I don’t expect his play to drop off with Schenn as his center, but it will certainly be different for him.

David Perron St. Louis Blues
David Perron, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Perron has a casual six goals in five games, including a hat trick that he tallied against the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth game of the season. While playing most of his time with O’Reilly in his third stint with St. Louis, he’s scored 73 goals in 189 games and a total of 172 points.

He’s been one of the most underrated wingers in the league over the past few seasons; he was over a point per game player last season. I expect Perron to do what he does best, which is to continue to score goals at a high rate while playing with Schenn.

Overall, the Blues will miss O’Reilly, but they have the depth to help sustain their 5-0-0 play. I still like the center depth that the Blues have, and it should come in handy here. Look for these three players to step their game up to see if the Blues can keep it rolling.

Sign up for our regular 'Blues Newsletter' for all the latest.