The past couple of NHL seasons have been challenging for all players, and it was a challenge with high points and low points for St. Louis Blues winger Mackenzie MacEachern. Injuries both got the 27-year-old native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, into the lineup and ultimately took him off the roster as well.
When the NHL finally headed into the regular season in January of 2021, MacEachern was coming off a 51-game campaign the previous season with seven goals and 10 points along with 33 PIM. However, he failed to crack the opening day lineup and spent the opening weeks of this past season on the team’s taxi squad.
Certainly a setback campaign, MacEachern was inserted into the Blues’ lineup in early February and appeared in 17-games, collecting one goal and one helper before the dreaded ‘upper body injury’ sent him to the sidelines. He made his way back for four pointless games down the season’s homestretch but was a healthy scratch in all four playoff contests for the Blues.
In 101 NHL games, MacEachern has contributed 11 goals and 17 points which is actually not so bad considering when he does crack the Blues’ lineup, he seldom plays more than 10 minutes in a game.
What Went Right
In his 17 games with the Blues before his injury this past season, he played a season-high of 11:22 on March 8 at San Jose, the second of three straight overtime defeats for the Blues, and his season-low (7:38) also came against the Sharks in a 7-6 regulation win in California Feb. 27. Ironically, that game is the one that saw MacEachern score his only goal of the season.
He appears to be comfortable in different roles. He will likely never be on the top two lines, but while he didn’t put up a lot of points, he is on the ice for more goals for than against. He was a plus-3 for the Blues, which means he doesn’t hurt the team’s chances at all. A resilient forward that can play on either side and takes up only $900,000 of cap space makes MacEachern a little more valuable.
What Went Wrong
It’s safe to say 2021-22 will be a big season for the winger, whether in a Blues’ uniform or not. Some may be surprised to see MacEachern’s age. Far from ‘old’ at 27, He was a 25-year-old rookie and is one season away from being an unrestricted free agent.
After being drafted in the third round (67th overall) in the 2012 NHL entry draft, MacEachern remained amateur for four seasons, playing with the Chicago Steel of the USHL for the 2012-13 season and following that with three seasons at Michigan State.
He finally turned pro for the start of the 2016-17 campaign and played two years in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, and he hit the lineup for the Blues for the first time in 2018-19. That season saw him splitting time with 29 NHL games and another 33 with San Antonio in the AHL.
Making the season-opening roster had to be a goal for MacEachern in January so going to the taxi squad was a setback. The good news for him was, when he have his name added to the roster, the only thing that could take him out was an injury.
The Blues will not protect MacEachern from the upcoming Expansion Draft, but the Seattle Kraken will likely not select him as there are bigger fish available.
It could be in MacEachern’s best interest to move, though, as he is entering the second and final season of his NHL contract at $900,000 per season, which could be attractive to an NHL team with the flat salary cap being a big roadblock as they attempt to get better but not break the bank for the coming season.
The tough thing for MacEachern is the depth of talent, in particular on the wings for the Blues. Like most, he has played on both wings, but both sides are crowded at this point. If Jaden Schwartz, Ivan Barbashev and Mike Hoffman grab the top three left side spots and the right flank is anchored by Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Kyrou and David Perron, that leaves a group including Kyle Clifford, Klim Kostin, Robert Thomas and Sammy Blais along with MacEachern battling for the final two spots. That is, of course, before any other rookie prospects and training camp invitations for non-contract players is considered.
Playing as a shut-down type forward is somewhat new to MacEachern, but he has shown he is willing to play any part that will see him wearing a blue note on his chest.
On a team that considers its Stanley Cup window still open, MacEachern could play a part in any trade conversations in what will almost certainly be a busy and interesting off-season for the Blues.
General Manager Doug Armstrong took at least some criticism for standing pat at the NHL trade deadline. In fact, the last official trade for the Blues was last September, sending Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens for a third-round (Dylan Peterson, USNDTP) and seventh-round (dealt to the Detroit Red Wings for a seventh-round pick in 2021).
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Trades are not always the answer, but if Armstrong sees that as a way to improve his chances for the upcoming season, MacEachern’s name could come up.
Final Grade: C
Sure, statswise, this game was a setback for the mature winger. He did what he had to do, though, got his shot to crack the lineup and then stayed there. He was only asked to play 8-10 minutes per game and generally in a defensive role, so he was in a bit of a Catch-22 as far as offensive statistics are concerned.
He didn’t dazzle and turn heads, but he didn’t get any negative attention either.
Watch for an inspired and determined MacEachern to enter camp in September and make Craig Berube’s decisions a little more difficult.