As the St. Louis Blues prepare for the stretch run with under 20 games to play, it is time for another mailbag article. I took a few questions from fans as we look into the season thus far, discuss the draft and more. I will be looking into doing another one during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and when the season is officially over.
Where Is the Disconnect Between What the Team Is Doing and What Berube’s System Calls For? (@drummond_sean via Twitter)
They’ve obviously been playing better since their losing streak in late March that led into April, but there were certainly serious issues prior to this stretch of winning some games. This team is much different than the one that won the Stanley Cup in 2019.
I think the biggest problem is the personnel; they have lost key pieces to the Berube system of hard forechecking, physical play and size. Some examples of players lost from the Cup team that were perfect fits in this system are Pat Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Alex Steen, and Jay Bouwmeester.
When you look at this year’s club, it is clearly more speed and skill-oriented, which is where the league is trending. But speed and skill don’t work as well when the style they are playing is the opposite of that. There are still multiple versatile pieces that fit with either style and have played well, notably Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, but that only goes so far.
While they stood pat at the trade deadline, they have pieces in place that fit the system, but some of their significant offensive players likely need to become more physical to fit. I worry about the lack of elite forecheckers with the club as currently constructed, but if everyone buys in, they can make a run.
Who Should We Draft With Our 1st Overall Pick? (@BluesFanReacts via Twitter)
When this question was tweeted to me, it appeared that the Blues would be in the lottery for this summer’s draft. However, since they are ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and in a playoff spot, it is unknown where they could end up in this year’s draft, but I’ll give you two of my favorite prospects that could find themselves on the Blues’ radar.
F Sasha Pastujov (6-foot-0, 180 pounds – U.S. National Development Team) (THW Ranking: 35)
The first player I like that could be drafted anywhere from the middle of the first round to the early portion of the second round is Sasha Pastujov. He has been consistently in between first and second-round grades over the last year. He’s had a good season for the USNTDP in 2020-21, scoring 26 points in 18 games.
He is a creative goal scorer with a high IQ in the offensive zone. His release is solid, as well as his hands, and his shot is above average. The Blues could have a chance to grab him in the middle of the first round wherever they end up. His upside could be high for a late first-round pick. He’s committed to play at the University of Notre Dame.
D Scott Morrow (6-foot-2, 192 pounds – Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U, USHS-Prep) (THW Ranking: 25)
In my opinion, Scott Morrow has steady NHL defenseman written all over him. He’s another player like Pastujov that is committed to play college hockey, as he’ll attend the University of North Dakota, following Jake Sanderson, who was a top-five pick in last year’s draft.
By all accounts, he is a solid offensive defender with defensive ability that can grow over time. When I see a young player like him with that size, he can grow and develop into being a good two-way defender over time. I trust the Blues’ ability to develop talent with somebody like Morrow.
Who Will Score More Goals in the Remaining Games: Hoffman or Perron? (David P via email)
This is an intriguing question, as Mike Hoffman is seemingly getting his offensive game going after a two-goal performance against the Minnesota Wild. The line with Sammy Blais and Ryan O’Reilly has produced goals, just not for David Perron, yet.
As long as Hoffman is playing on a power-play unit, he is in a good position to score goals for this team. So I’ll say Hoffman outscores Perron in the final 15 games. It will be close, but I expect O’Reilly and Blais to stay hot, while Hoffman does the same whether it is on the power play or with Tyler Bozak and Zach Sanford on the third line.
Hoffman is also on a one-year contract. You have to think he is motivated to get a long-term deal in free agency, with the healthy scratches being a potential wake-up call for him. Either way, both of these guys will finish the season strong.
The Blues have to prove to their general manager Doug Armstrong that his belief in them to stand pat at the deadline was the right thing to do. All you have to do is get to the playoffs, and anything can happen. Thanks for the questions, and I look forward to doing this again soon.