Day one of the Traverse City prospect tournament is in the books and it was not a pretty day for the St. Louis Blues. For the most part, the team’s prospects looked lifeless and uncoordinated. The Carolina Hurricanes and second-overall pick Andrei Svechnikov manhandled them and Blues fans are hoping that the skies will clear on Saturday.
A Familiar Feeling for the Blues
Inattentive viewers of today’s game might have believed they were watching a replay from the Blues’ 2017-18 season. All the calling cards were there: the lack of energy or effort, the absence of team chemistry and communication, even an anaemic power play. In fact, the only thing that was different from any game last season were the names on the jerseys.
It would, of course, be foolish to read anything into the state of the Blues’ future off of one rookie game, or even to draw conclusions about the rest of the tournament. But it was not the result that anyone who made the trek to Traverse City were hoping for.
Svechnikov Stands Out
The Hurricanes used their second-overall pick in this year’s draft to select Svechnikov, the big Russian winger who had a dominant season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Today was, in some ways, his first taste of NHL competition and he did not disappoint. He recorded a goal and an assist and his final goal (which initially looked like an assist) was the result of a beautiful play that solidified the Hurricanes’ advantage and win.
The @NHLCanes go back up by 3 on Andrei Svechnikov’s first goal of the tournament. 4-1 Canes over Blues. Goal was a snipe top corner.
— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) September 7, 2018
Svechnikov is going to be one of the players to watch this tournament, along with the Dallas Stars’ Miro Heiskanen and the Detroit Red Wings’ Filip Zadina, both of whom scored goals today. They will be bright stars at the highest level for years to come.
Jeremy “Stonewall” Helvig
The Blues might have had better luck if it wasn’t for a red-hot goalie, Jeremy Helvig. A former fifth-round pick in 2016, Helvig has played the past four seasons for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. He is not a high-ranked prospect but no one would have known that from today’s performance.
At least twice, Helvig turned away a shot on a wide open net where he seemed completely out of position. All told, he faced over 20 shots (there was a discrepancy between the scorekeeping in the arena and the box scores posted later on) and stopped all but one.
Blues’ head coach Mike Yeo, who was in attendance, took a moment to praise Helvig’s performance: “They capitalized on their chances early and we didn’t. In the second period, we started to carry the play again but just couldn’t finish. Their goalie played really well. It was just one of those games.”
Blues Bright Spots
It wasn’t all bad for the Blues. Though the team never really gelled, many players performed well as individuals. Top prospects Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Slim Kostin each had a good game. Behind them, Tanner Kaspick and Adam Musil also gave energetic performances for the Blues on Friday. Both Kaspick and Musil were captains of their WHL team last season (the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Red Deer Rebels, respectively), and they brought their leadership to Traverse City.
The Blues have a great core of young leaders, including today’s three captains: Nolan Stevens, who was captain of the Northeastern University squad last year, was named the captain of the Blues’ prospect team and his alternates were Robert Thomas and Niko Mikkola. Though it wasn’t Stevens’ strongest performance, the Blues have a bevy of young talent with leadership experience in the pipeline.
What’s On Tap?
Both the Hurricanes and Blues took defeats in the first half of Saturday’s action, which is ongoing. The Blues lost 5-3 to the Blue Jackets (look for more on this game later), while the Blackhawks bested the Hurricanes 5-2. There are no games scheduled for Sunday, so each team will practice and look to rebound on Monday, when the Blues face the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes take on the Blue Jackets.
The Hockey Writers will report from Traverse City throughout the tournament, and remember that fans who cannot attend in person can stream the games through the Fox Sports Go app and through the Red Wings website. Check back daily for more info on the tournament.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.