The St. Louis Blues officially sent their opening night roster to the NHL for the 2022-23 season. They will open their season up on Oct. 15 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on home ice at the Enterprise Center. The roster for this season is similar to last with a couple of tweaks based on offseason moves, such as the losses of Ville Husso and David Perron. But the Blues will continue to lean on veterans like Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and others for success this season.
Overall, this roster is solid and has all the makings of a likely playoff team. Despite a blue line that doesn’t look great on paper, the Blues have a lot of talent in their forward group and they will return eight of nine 20-goal scorers from 2021-22. Let’s take a look at what will hit the ice for the Blues when the puck drops on the 2022-23 season.
What The Roster Looks Like
The Blues had plenty of battles during training camp and the preseason. There were multiple spots available in the forward group and a spot open on the third blue line pair on the left side. Their initial roster reflects that of competition, depth, and veteran talent. There are a few things to keep in mind with how this roster looks right now, though.
The Blues have this as their initial roster to be salary cap compliant before they are able to put Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Despite sending both Jake Neighbours and Josh Leivo to the minors, they will be back and in the lineup on opening night once the Blues make those LTIR moves. The moves to put them down with the Springfield Thunderbirds were simply paper moves, as neither player will actually be leaving St. Louis.
Outside of any confusion with those moves, there are no surprises with this roster other than Alexey Toropchenko being healthy enough to make the roster. He was expected to be out until December, but it will certainly be earlier than that now. The Blues’ lineup on opening night likely won’t provide any surprises either, but it’s worth breaking down officially.
Opening Night Lineup Projection & Breakdown
Pavel Buchnevich – Robert Thomas – Vladimir Tarasenko
Brandon Saad – Ryan O’Reilly – Jordan Kyrou
Jake Neighbours – Brayden Schenn – Ivan Barbashev
Logan Brown – Noel Acciari – Josh Leivo
The Blues’ forward line projections on opening night bring great expectations and hope that they can score a lot of goals. Last season, the Blues managed to score 311 goals, ranking fourth in the league. Despite losing Perron, I don’t think the offensive output will slow down that much. The idea of Jordan Kyrou getting more ice time and more consistent linemates should help him reach 30 goals at a minimum.
The Blues should definitely keep Robert Thomas as the center of the Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko line. That trio produces a lot of high-danger chances and goals with both of them reaching 30 last season. Thomas is set to have a major offensive season after scoring 20 goals and 57 assists for 77 points last season, and he should be even better in 2022-23.
The bottom six should be formidable as well with Neighbours likely getting a chance to play alongside two quality veterans in Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev, as both of them reached 20 goals last season despite Schenn battling injuries. I’m interested to see if Logan Brown’s quality play in the preseason can translate to the regular season, as there were flashes last season of him becoming a consistent player. I’m quite comfortable with Noel Acciari and Josh Leivo playing on the fourth line, as both of them have track records of playing bottom-six roles well. All in all, this forward group doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses despite losing one of their best forwards in Perron.
Blue Line Pairings
Nick Leddy – Colton Parayko
Torey Krug – Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola – Robert Bortuzzo
The Blues need their blue line to perform much better than last season, as they relied on Justin Faulk to do all of the heavy lifting while others struggled. One major scenario to watch is how Colton Parayko and Nick Leddy play a full season together. It seemed to work well last season after they acquired Leddy from the Detroit Red Wings, but the Blues were tricked into a similar scenario with Marco Scandella. The Blues can’t afford their blue line to not play well in front of either goaltender, therefore they need to be better at preventing high-danger chances in the slot.
The injury to Scott Perunovich creates a major opportunity for Niko Mikkola. He has been a model of inconsistency in his first few seasons with a lot of issues staying away from the penalty box. If he can’t hold up his end of the ice alongside Robert Bortuzzo, the Blues have plenty of options waiting behind him. Those options are Calle Rosen, Tyler Tucker, or newly acquired Dmitri Samorukov. I don’t think general manager Doug Armstrong will hesitate to call up Tucker or Samorukov if Mikkola and Rosen aren’t cutting it.
Overall, the Blues’ defensive unit needs to be better and more consistent in every way. If Torey Krug can stay healthy, I expect him to have a big season alongside Faulk, as they are the backbone of this defense. If Leddy and Parayko struggle for the entirety of the season, it will be difficult for the Blues to make the playoffs. As such, the success of this team will have a lot to do with how this unit performs.
It’s time for Jordan Binnington to play like himself again. He was brilliant during the Stanley Cup run in 2019 and followed it up with a tremendous regular season in 2019-20. He had a lackluster 2021-22 regular season but was fantastic during the 2022 Playoffs before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the postseason in Game 3 of the second round. It’s easy to blame the blue line for some of Binnington’s downfall last season, but he was not playing well in any way. Proof of that was the success of Husso, who had a career season with a 25-7-6 record and .919 save percentage (SV%).
Binnington likely won’t have as much relief behind him as he did last season with Husso. Thomas Greiss comes in as a huge question mark for the Blues. He’s coming off of a rough season with the Red Wings, recording a SV% of .891 and goals against average (GAA) of 3.66. The Red Wings had a poor blue line last season, but that is not the only reason that Greiss struggled. The Blues are taking a shot in the dark with the acquisition of Greiss with no real backup plan in sight other than 22-year-old Joel Hofer, who likely isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role yet.
The simple fact is that both goaltenders need to bounce back from lackluster seasons in 2021-22. If they can do that, the Blues should have no issue winning a boatload of games. I’m not fully confident in Greiss as the backup, but I feel good about Binnington after seeing him in the preseason.
Forwards: Nathan Walker, Alexey Toropchenko
Defensemen: Calle Rosen
All three extras on the roster for opening night should see ice time during the 2022-23 season with potential injuries to come. The Blues do have a lot of NHL-ready players and veterans in the AHL, but Nathan Walker and Calle Rosen have shown the ability to play their roles when injury strikes. As for Toropchenko, when he is medically cleared to play, he will be inserted automatically after how he performed last season. It’s unknown who he will replace, but it’s obvious that he must be in the lineup when he can return to the ice.
Overall, the Blues have a quality roster for the 2022-23 season with a lot of reasons for hope. They may not be a clear-cut Cup contender, but they should make the playoffs and could make some noise when they get there. The competition during the preseason brings fresh faces to the lineup and should give them a different feel on the ice, especially in the bottom six. I’m expecting the Blues to have a good season in 2022-23 with no issue reaching 95 or more points and a top-three finish in the Central Division.