3 Key Takeaways From Blues 2022 Training Camp

The weather in St. Louis seemed to understand that hockey was just around the corner. As the week began in the low to mid-90s, by the start of training camp, fans were enjoying breezy 60-degree weather as the doors opened to the Centene Community Ice Center for Blues training camp. The two-day event was quick and intense as the team quickly departed for their first preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sept. 24.

Blues Internal Battles

As the 2022-23 training camp wraps up ahead of preseason games, players know there is very little room for competition this year. Aside from a position on the team’s fourth line and a third-pairing defensive partner for Robert Bortuzzo, most of the jobs are spoken for in favor of a largely veteran hockey team. Among internal competitions, the right-wing role alongside team captain Ryan O’Reilly is still up for grabs as well.

“There’s some jobs available that guys are going to be fighting for,” Blues head coach Craig Berube said. “Which is a good thing. We want a competitive camp.” (from ‘As the Blues open camp, the number of 2019 Stanley Cup vets dwindles,’ St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sept. 22, 2022)

Kyrou, 24, has been placed on the right wing with O’Reilly throughout training camp and should get a good look at their chemistry throughout the preseason. With the departure of veteran forward David Perron, the right-wing position on that line has opened up and will require a skilled forward to take his place. The Toronto native experienced a breakout season scoring 27 goals and 75 points over 74 games. He is considered a top option for the club to replace Perron on the forward line.

Related: Blues 2022-23 Training Camp Roster Breakdown & Predictions

And there are some on the fourth line, where newcomers Noel Acciari and Josh Leivo will compete with returners such as Nathan Walker, Klim Kostin, and Alexey Toropchenko (when healthy). Toropchenko was seen working hard throughout camp as he works to make his way back from offseason shoulder surgery that originally projected a December return.

Before the start of camp, the Blues announced that veteran defenseman Marco Scandella would be out for at least six months after surgery on his right hip joint. While the team was dealt any early blow to their defensive unit, they are confident in their depth to fill any void. Top prospect Scott Perunovich should remain the primary option to fill the position moving forward. The 24-year-old prospect was recalled to the Blues last season but only appeared in 19 games before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery. The injury kept the defenseman out of the lineup for the remainder of the season until a brief, seven-game appearance where he registered four assists. 

O’Reilly Pending Free Agency

Entering into the final year of his seven-year contract, O’Reilly seems unfazed and focused on the coming season, rather than his expiring contract. When asked about his future in St. Louis, the 31-year-old stated, “I definitely think this is where I want to be and move forward and such like that. I think that stuff will play out on its own. I just keep trying to focus on the season and the guys and being ready here. I’m not worried about things not playing out the right way. We’ll see. We’ll see how things go.”

With two of the younger faces of the organization in Kyrou and Robert Thomas now signed to matching eight-year, $65 million contracts, the questions begin to swirl if the Blues can afford O’Reilly moving forward or if he will be a cap casualty. In his four seasons in St. Louis, O’Reilly has 250 points (85 goals, 165 assists) in 287 games. The forward also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs when St. Louis won the Stanley Cup in 2019.

Team Focusing on 5-on-5 Play

For a team that finished third in the NHL in goals for per game with 3.77, the team’s coaching staff appears to be focused on improving even further this coming season. Berube and the coaching staff reiterated throughout their media availability they felt there were improvements last year and were still looking at it at the end of the season and going over data through analytics and video. He continued to preach the importance and impression of being more diligent at protecting the middle of the ice and keeping play to the outside. Last season, the Blues allowed 79 more high-danger scoring chances than their opposition. The squad will not look to be overly aggressive, but maintain a strong sense of calm and control as they look to improve their 5-on-5 play, and limit odd-man rush opportunities throughout the year.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Minnesota Wild makes a save on Robert Thomas of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Should the Blues be able to continue their strong, heavy style of play this coming season, they should remain in a good position to succeed and contend for a playoff spot. The team’s preseason schedule features an eight-game set finishing Oct. 8 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

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