As the St. Louis Blues are closing in on their third consecutive playoff appearance, it is clear to see this can be largely attributed to the stellar play of top forwards Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. While the all-star duo has had excellent campaigns this season, with both sitting at about a point per game, they are both about to enter the possible crescendo of their careers as they are moving on to the wrong side of 30.
With their top forwards beginning this transition, the Blues need to begin looking into the long-term future of their organization, and that starts this offseason securing the retention of Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. Kyrou and Thomas are both going to be restricted free agents (RFA) this offseason, and ensuring that they both return as members of the team should be one of the top priorities for management this offseason. Both of these young forwards have shown signs of greatness this season, and with their skilled yet explosive play styles, we could be seeing the next great forward duo for the Blues.
The 22-year-old Toronto native Kyrou has had a true breakout season this year. With 31 points in 48 games, he has nearly tripled his point production from his first two seasons in the NHL combined. He is a physical winger that can also slide in as a centreman when needed. One of the traits that make him so valuable to this Blues team is his hustle and hard-working mentality. He has no issues mixing it up along the boards or making gritty plays on either side of the puck. With his knack for playing within the physical side of the game, he can drain opposing players with his strength and speed, which gives him a competitive edge as the contest progresses.
Kyrou’s athleticism is not all that sets him apart from other young players within the NHL, as he also possesses top-notch scoring ability. While getting limited ice time on the Blues’ third-line, he makes the most of his opportunities. He has a deadly accurate wrister from up close, able to beat goaltenders short side in the blink of an eye. His bullet of a wrist shot keeps defenses on their toes which allows him to use his strong vision of the ice to find his line-mates open for high danger scoring chances.
Moving into the future, Kyrou has demonstrated he has all of the makings to be a top-six forward on any team within the NHL and could serve as a top two-way forward for many years to come. With an increased role on the Blues, we could see his output explode as he continues to excel within head coach Craig Berube’s system.
After two fantastic seasons to kickstart his career, Thomas has shown he has the upside to become an all-star caliber player within the NHL. Although the former first-round pick has missed some time this season due to various injuries, when he is fully healthy, he is an offensive force on the ice.
Thomas is a gifted playmaker and a tremendous on-ice leader. With his top-of-the-line hockey IQ, he is an asset to all of his linemates as he easily quarterbacks the offence and can create scoring chances out of thin air for his team. His ability to create for his team demonstrates he has a thorough understanding of the game, knowledge well beyond his age. As Thomas continues to gain experience within the NHL, his ability to generate offence for his club will only grow and could lead to him becoming a potential league leader in total assists at the end of the regular season in years to come.
Being able to create dangerous scoring chances for his team may be Thomas’s bread and butter, but his athleticism and skating ability are at an elite level as well. He has terrific acceleration and can reach speeds only a few in the NHL can match when he finds open space on the ice.
Thomas uses his speed well when carrying the puck, able to put pressure on defencemen attempting to stop him on the backcheck, as well as forces goaltenders to choose their next move wisely as one misstep, and he will find the back of the net.
Long-term, Thomas has shown he can be a leader within the Blues organization. He can make any line he plays on a threat to score whenever they are called upon to enter the game, and at only 21-years-old, it is likely he has yet to scratch the surface of his full potential.
How Kyrou/Thomas Feed Off One Another
With Kyrou’s goal-scoring touch, combined with Thomas’s playmaking skills, the duo could be destined to take over their division in a matter of no time. Currently paired together on the Blues third-line, they have developed great chemistry together and play off one another to generate scoring chances well. The two up and comers have not spent much time together on the same line, but they are quickly blossoming into a dynamic duo. The two youngsters bring excitement and skill to the rough and tough Blues squad, separating themselves from the pack and showing they have the potential to shift the culture of the franchise when the time comes to hand them the keys.
With Kyrou and Thomas both becoming RFAs this offseason, the Blues will need to prioritize their contract negotiations, as well as ensuring they are both protected from being selected by the Seattle Kraken in their upcoming expansion draft. By building a future around these two, the Blues will be setting the foundations for a potential cornerstone 1-2 punch that could light up the league in the near future.
Originally from Owen Sound, Ontario, Matt Eichhorn has spent the past 4 years studying the field of Sport Media at Ryerson University. Eichhorn is a life-long hockey fan with experience working in a variety of media roles around the game. Currently, Eichhorn covers the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers.