Welcome back to another St. Louis Blues Prospect Report. This report offers a check-in on some of the Blues’ top prospects across their respective leagues and provides an update on their progress as they navigate their way to the NHL. Regardless of whether these prospects are drafted in the first round, a last-overall draft choice in the seventh round, or signed as an undrafted free agent, there will always be individuals and groups watching to see what is coming down the pipeline as future reinforcements and pillars for the franchise.
Nikita Alexandrov (AHL)
Nikita Alexandrov has officially started his 2021-22 campaign playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) and suiting up for the Blues’ minor league affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. In eight games this season, Alexandrov has scored three goals and two assists (3-2-5).
Alexandrov is finally experiencing his first real taste at professional North American hockey as 2021-21 was affected due to COVID-19. During the 2020-21 season, he was loaned to KooKoo in Finland’s top professional hockey league, the Liiga, and finished the season in the AHL with the Utica Comets, where he posted three goals and two assists in seven games. While he should have every opportunity to make the NHL, Alexandrov could make a strong push for a consistent second- or third-line role for the Blues within a year or two and quickly become a fan favorite.
Zachary Bolduc (QMJHL)
The Blues’ first-round draft choice during the 2021 NHL Draft, Zachary Bolduc is currently second on the Quebec Remparts with six goals and 11 assists in 14 games played. Bolduc is picking up where he left off in his 2020-21 season after scoring 29 points (10-19-29) in 27 games for Rimouski Oceanic.
What fans will notice right away is that Bolduc is not afraid to shoot the puck. The high-volume shooter is currently averaging just under three shots per game this season after averaging 8.7 shot attempts and 4.27 shots on goal per game last season. Today, Bolduc is scoring at a 1.21 point-per-game pace and is on pace to score approximately 72 points this season if he were to play in 60 of 68 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Joel Hofer – (AHL/NHL)*
After Hofer was drafted in 2018, he went 34-8-5 for the Portland Winterhawks during the 2019-20 season with a 2.49 goals-against average (GAA) and a .915 save percentage (SV%). During that year, Hofer led the Under-20 Canadian team to a gold medal with his 5-0 record, a 1.30 GAA, and a .946 SV% tournament stat line. Hofer has risen and elevated his game at each level he has played and should find himself having success in the NHL. Blues fans have already gotten a small glimpse at what Hofer is capable of, and it should hold them over until he is there full-time.
While Hofer is currently backing up goaltender Jordan Binnington in the NHL, he’s the Springfield Thunderbirds’ 1A goaltender in the Hofer/Charlie Lindgren goalie tandem. Prior to his emergency call-up to the NHL after goaltender Ville Husso tested positive for COVID-19, Hofer played in four games in the AHL this season, allowing only seven goals in 241:10 of gameplay.
Scott Perunovich (AHL)
Scott Perunovich is not only exciting fans with his play during his first year of professional hockey, but he practically has them salivating. He currently leads the AHL in points with 17 points (2-15-17) in 10 games played and is more than 20 positions ahead of the next defensemen in the league. So, why isn’t the budding star in St. Louis yet? Plain and simple: the salary cap. When asked about the decision to keep Perunovich in the AHL, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong stated: “That’s cap-related. With Krug, Husso, and Clifford, there’s no salary relief. So, one of the reasons Scott can’t be here is because of his contract. The bonuses in his contract are so high… it does have ramifications on recalls.”
For Perunovich, it is only a matter of time before he makes his Blues debut and sticks around for the long haul. In the meantime, like Alexandrov, the 23-year-old is getting his first real taste of professional hockey this season after missing the entire 2020-21 season due to shoulder surgery. Before his professional career, Perunovich played collegiate hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he appeared in 105 games over three seasons and amassed 105 points and two championships. While he is exceeding all expectations, it may not be the worst idea to let him marinate in the AHL a little while to continue his development and ensure that he is physically ready to take the next step.
Simon Robertsson (SHL)
Another draft choice from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Simon Robertson is currently playing in Sweden, splitting time between three different teams: Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), the J20 Nationell League with Skellefteå AIK, and Sweden’s Under-20 International squad. While the 18-year-old has been unable to crack the point sheet through 17 games in the SHL, he was able to create four goals and three assists (4-3-7) in seven games for the J20 team. Despite the lack of success in the SHL this season, the 18-year-old Robertsson still boasts plenty of upside and is still maturing as he continues to transition to the professional hockey stage. Blues fans could see him in the AHL within the next season or two as he continues to develop and begins to transition to the North American style of hockey.
Looking to the Future
Blues fans certainly have a lot to look forward to. The team may not have high-caliber players coming that will set the world on fire. However, this batch of prospects offers plenty of hard-nosed depth pieces that will be ready to play in the top and middle-six positions. This batch can not only put the puck in the net but also defend well in their own zone. The type of players who are ready to play “Blues hockey.” Fans should be excited as they look to the future and see the potential coming from the players that this Blues front office has drafted and is developing.
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.