St. Louis Blues president of hockey operations and general manager Doug Armstrong announced Wednesday the team’s roster for the 2022 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. The squad will include 15 players drafted by the team, and 15 players who participated in last season’s event where the Blues finished 1-1-1. The team will also feature nine players who appeared in games for the organization’s American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Bolduc, Neighbours Headline the Forwards
The Blues will roster 14 forwards for the tournament, highlighted by two of their most recent first-round draft picks in Jake Neighbours and Zachary Bolduc. After a brief nine-game stint in St. Louis, they opted to send Neighbours back to the Western Hockey League (WHL). In the nine games that the forward played, he scored one goal and two assists. While he was on a 26-point pace for his rookie season, the 19-year-old was playing with house money as his role was never truly “available” to him with the looming return of Oskar Sundqvist from long-term injured reserve.
Neighbours proved to the organization that he was worthy of a first-round draft choice and is ready to play “Blues hockey,” as he went on to captain his WHL squad, the Edmonton Oil Kings, and produce 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 30 regular-season games. Despite an injury that kept him out for over half of the season, he returned to form in the postseason scoring three goals and 17 points over 19 games in a championship-winning campaign.
The team’s 2021 first-round draft choice, Bolduc, will get the chance to show fans his offensive upside during the tournament. Over 65 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the Québec Remparts, he not only led his team with 55 goals but also tied for second-most in the league. His 99 points over the season also tied him for the most on the team, and eighth in the QMJHL. To date, he has registered 180 total points (95 goals, 85 assists) over 147 regular-season games, a 1.22 point-per-game rate.
Buchinger Leads the Defensemen
While the Blues do not have a top-end defenseman prospect selected in the first round, their roster will feature several quality blueliners capable of earning a top-four role in the future in Michael Buchinger, Matt Kessel, and Brady Lyle.
Drafted 88th overall during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Buchinger is a strong skater that can play a quality game at both ends of the ice. He managed to score five goals and 44 points over 63 regular season games for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and a goal and three points over five postseason games.
Buchinger is a smooth skating two-way defender. His mobility is a plus as he has great movement east to west, pivoting to skating backwards, great edgework, and an ability to turn on a dime. However, I believe he needs to work on his first few steps. He can lead the breakout with his skating or a first pass, but that added speed would give him an edge.”Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers
The Blues will also feature two notable prospects in Kessel and Lyle. Kessel, a fifth-round draft pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, is a 6-foot-3, right-shot defenseman who spent three seasons playing for UMass Amherst of the NCAA, scoring 23 goals and 51 points in 100 career games and won the NCAA championship during the 2020-21 season. The 22-year-old joined the Thunderbirds on a professional tryout for the remainder of the season and postseason, where he scored a combined five points (one goal, four assists) in 33 games.
While Lyle has not spent much time in the Blues organization, he has not wasted any time making his mark. After the Blues acquired the defenseman from the Boston Bruins at the AHL trade deadline, he reported to the Thunderbirds and re-discovered his offensive touch, scoring three goals and seven points over 15 regular-season games. He continued to be a force offensively in the postseason as the second-highest-scoring defenseman on the team with nine points (three goals, six assists) over 18 games.
Cranley, Ellis & Zherenko Form Goaltending Trio
The roster will also feature three goaltenders in Will Cranley, Colten Ellis, and Vadim Zherenko. The most experienced netminder of the trio, Ellis, appeared in 34 games for the Worcester Railers of the ECHL with a 15-13-5 record as he posted a .905 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.21 goals-against average (GAA). He also was recalled to the AHL for six games with the Thunderbirds resulting in a 3.93 GAA and a .880 SV%.
Zherenko remains the most intriguing goaltender of the group. The 6-foot-4 Russian spent the bulk of his season playing Liiga of the Champions Hockey League for Ilves. Despite the 11-8-11 season record, his 2.67 GAA and .902 SV% make him a player to keep an eye on if he can find his way into at least one of the games in the tournament.
Blues’ Tournament Roster
Nikita Alexandrov, Andrei Bakanov, Zach Bolduc, Davis Codd, Brayden Guy, Michael Horth, Theo Hill, Mathias Laferriere, Hugh McGing, Jake Neighbours, Maxime Pellerin, Landon Sim, Jakin Smallwood, Keean Washkurak
Michael Buchinger, Tyson Galloway, Marc-Andre Gaudet, Matt Kessel, Griffin Luce, Brady Lyle, Roberto Mancini, Tyler Tucker
Will Cranley, Colten Ellis, Vadim Zherenko
Where to Watch
The Blues’ tournament schedule includes games against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 2 PM (CT), the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, Sept. 16, at 5:30 PM (CT), and the Dallas Stars on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 10 AM. (CT). All games will stream live on the Blues’ YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/stlouisblues.
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.