The St. Louis Blues had many successes during the 2021-22 regular season. As we watched breakout performances from key players and nine players score 20 or more goals, many Blues will be looking to repeat their results and continue to earn their role as one of the franchise’s stars. Here are the three most notable.
Barbashev’s performance in 2021-22 was one of the Blues’ biggest surprises of the campaign. As a player who averaged 33 points over 270 career games before a breakout 60-point (26 goals, 34 assists) performance over 81 games, many are still wondering where this production came from. Known for his gritty style that typically thrives in a third or fourth-line role, the 26-year-old Russian received an opportunity in a top-six role after the teams’ separation from forward Jaden Schwartz. He made the most of his opportunity, and while maintaining his heavy style of play, he earned a roughly 3:00 increase in ice time along with a new, consistent amount of time on the power play, averaging 1:29 per game.
While it is easy to argue that Barbashev will have a difficult time repeating those numbers, several metrics indicate that his 2021-22 performance was not a fluke. Despite being a player who did not see a consistent scoring opportunity in the NHL, he has maintained a steady 1.4 shots on goal per game (SOG/g), only 0.2 SOG/g higher than his average over the last three seasons. His deployment on the power play along with a substantial increase in playing time suggest that the Blues have finally unlocked a hidden gem.
In the 2018-19 season, though he only averaged 11:31 of ice time each game, Barbashev had a 23.3% shooting percentage, mirroring his 23.4% rate from last season. Steady growth and proper development have been key to his increased production, and one that could be repeated should he remain healthy, and opportunities continue to present themself in 2022-23.
Another breakout performer during the 2021-22 season was Jordan Kyrou. The team’s 2nd-round selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has shown plenty of offensive flair during his time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the American Hockey League (AHL), and now the NHL. Before earning a full-time position with the Blues, Kyrou appeared in 64 games in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and the San Antonio Rampage, scoring 25 goals and 58 points. After playing his first full season with the Blues, Kyrou will look to repeat his breakout performance of 75 points (27 goals and 48 points) over 74 games.
Looking ahead to 2022-23, the Blues could rely heavily on the 24-year-old. The loss of forward David Perron has left the team top-heavy on right-wingers and could present a problem offensively. The organization will need him to continue to grow and mature to help lead the team offensively as they look to contend for another Stanley Cup.
Among a group of talented defensemen, Faulk set himself apart last season. After his third campaign in St. Louis, he led all Blues defensemen in points with 47 (16 goals, 31 assists) in 76 games, along with 101 blocked shots, 149 hits, and a 37-40 takeaway-giveaway ratio. His all-around performance tied him for 15th in Norris Trophy voting with Chris Tanev, Jared Spurgeon, and former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. Faulk’s 23:12 of average ice time per game was second to Colton Parayko.
With five years left remaining on his contract, worth $6.5 million per season, Faulk needs to continue to excel in all areas of the game. Last season, the 30-year-old scored at an incredible 9.6% rate, coming within one goal of tying a career-high 17 goals. While he has scored 11 or more goals five times over his 11-year NHL career, a career-high shooting rate and 74.2% secondary assist rate means we could see a regression in his offensive production in 2022-23.
While depth is an advantage the Blues have over many teams, their success this season will stem from these three players. The production on and off the scoresheet that these three players have each offered each night has often earned them the title of ‘unsung hero’ that can often result in a testament to a victory that could have favored their opposition.
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.