The St. Louis Blues are almost ready to start their shortened 2020-21 season on Jan. 13 when they head to Colorado to battle the Avalanche. This roster is far different from the ones we’ve seen over the last few seasons and will be unpredictable to start the season until their chemistry grows.
Let’s take a look at three of my bold predictions for this team as we near the beginning of an unprecedented 56-game season.
1. Robert Thomas Leads the Blues in Points
This is a breakout season for Thomas, as he’s due to take his game to the next level. It’s been building for a couple of seasons now, and he has a chance to put some great numbers up.
The biggest factor for Thomas is that he’s going to start the season in the top six after spending the last couple of seasons on the third line, and he still produced enough to stay on his trajectory of being a top-six forward.
As of now, the Blues have been running Thomas on the second line alongside Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz, meaning Thomas would have two good goal-scorers alongside him, maximizing his passing ability.
That line may be a bit small overall, but it is full of skill with Hoffman and the hard-working Schwartz. Thomas is a perfect center for this line with his ability to feed the puck from all angles.
He has 56 assists over the last two seasons while playing well under 20 minutes per game. With expanded minutes, he should be hovering around a point-per-game pace when healthy.
It’s time for Thomas to take another big step into becoming a young star for this team. The year is now, the time is now, and he will accomplish that by leading the team in points.
2. Blues Win the West Division
This division out west is going to be challenging, especially with traveling for the Blues. The NHL did a good job at helping the Blues with travel and game start times. Either way, this is a bold prediction considering what the division looks like.
The Blues, along with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, are the clear-cut top three favorites in the West Division. The other five teams in the division are unpredictable, and some of them are still rebuilding.
With the divisional scheduling for the 2020-21 season, the Blues have a lot of favorable matchups when it comes to the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and other fringe playoff teams in the West.
The matchups with the Golden Knights and Avalanche are not only going to be fun to watch, but they will be very important in determining the likely winner of this division. The Blues have had excellent battles with both teams over the last couple of seasons, and the rivalries will heat up even more now.
With Alex Pietrangelo on the other side in Vegas, the Blues and Golden Knights could form an intriguing rivalry with the eight matchups they will play this season and a chance for them to meet in the first or second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
You can’t ever underestimate another NHL team, but the Blues have a good chance to win the division if they play their game. Either way, the West Division battles will be great to see this season.
3. Jaden Schwartz Leads the Blues in Goals
Schwartz bounced back in the 2019-20 season with 22 goals in 71 games after just 11 goals in 69 games during the 2018-19 campaign.
It appears as if Schwartz is going to start the season with new linemates, as Blues’ head coach Craig Berube has had him playing alongside Hoffman and Thomas during training camp.
And if I’m picking Thomas to lead the team in points, I’d like to pick one of his linemates as the team leader in goals, so I went with the long-term Blue in Schwartz.
Schwartz and Hoffman, both of the wingers on this line, are playing for new contracts, which can help motivate them even more than their hungriness to win.
Schwartz will carry a cap hit of $5.35 million this season and will likely hit the free-agent market this offseason unless the Blues can work out an extension with him.
I think his contract status and overall line chemistry that he can build with Thomas and Hoffman will propel him to lead the team in goals, I’m not sure what the number of goals scored will be for him in a 56-game season, but he will lead the team.
The Blues’ season starts this week, and I am so excited to see this new-look team with many new faces to go out there and try to make another deep run. Hockey season is almost back, folks.