We caught a few glimpses of the St. Louis Blues’ top prospects last season, and a few shined under the spotlight: Forward Jake Neighbours (2020 Round 1) earned a nine-game trial; defenseman Scott Perunovich (2018 Round 2) turned a hot start in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Springfield Thunderbirds into some time with the Blues and played quality postseason minutes when Torey Krug was injured.
Forward Alexey Toropchenko (2017 Round 4) solidified his spot as a bottom-six winger thanks to his ability to use his size, speed, and physicality. Forward Logan Brown (2016 Round 1 – Ottawa) logged 11 points in 39 games in mostly a bottom-six role. He showed promise but needs more ice time to realize his potential. Goalie Joel Hofer (2018 Round 4) started two games for the Blues, earning his first career victory.
So who is next for the Blues? Here’s a look at five prospects who have yet to see any NHL ice time for the Blues but could have an impact in the 2022-23 season.
1. Zachary Bolduc – Forward (2021 Round 1)
You can make an argument that either one of Zachry Bolduc or Jake Neighbours is the Blues’ top prospect. Last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Bolduc went on a league-wide tear. In 66 regular season games, he totaled 99 points (55 goals, 44 assists) and scored 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in 12 playoff games for the Quebec Ramparts.
Known mostly for his elite skating and propensity for taking shots, Bolduc has a legitimate chance to start the season with St. Louis under the same nine-game trial we saw with Neighbours last season. All in all, he’s most likely returning to Juniors once the preseason is over or immediately following a nine-game trial. However, given it’s his first shot, it’s possible he sticks around in the NHL and never looks back. He just needs the right opportunity and maybe a few breaks for that to happen.
2. Nikita Alexandrov – Forward (2019 Round 2)
While he wasn’t a first-round pick, Alexandrov was the Blues’ first pick in the 2019 Draft. He’s a solid two-way centerman who is an above-average skater. He put up 30 points in 67 games last season for Springfield (12 goals, 18 assists).
Alexandrov doesn’t really project to be much of a scorer (he’s more of a puck mover) but could fit in the lineup as a role player somewhere along the third and fourth lines. He’s nearing the age (22 in September) where the team needs him to make significant strides to earn an everyday role in the NHL. Last season was his first full campaign in the American Hockey League (AHL), so he should get some time there this season to log more minutes and make a larger contribution.
3. Matt Kessel – Defenseman (2020 Round 5)
At 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, Matt Kessel has the traditional size you look for in a bigger defenseman. He’s a right-handed shot, exactly what the organization is lacking. He profiles as a two-way defender with enough offense that it has to be accounted for but not enough that it is a key aspect of his game.
After spending 2019-2022 at the University of Massachusetts, Kessel got into 15 regular-season games with Springfield last season after his college season wrapped up and managed to put up three points (0 goals, 3 assists). He followed that with two points (1G, 1A) in 18 playoff games – nothing to write home about, but good experience nonetheless. He’s got good puck skills and is steady, albeit unspectacular. It would take a few injuries for him to see NHL action, but it’s not impossible for him to get in a few games and open some eyes.
4. Colten Ellis – Goalie (2019 Round 3)
The departures of Ville Husso and Charlie Lindgren have left the Blues’ goaltending depth very thin. Jordan Binnington had a down season in 2021-22, as well as a stint with COVID, so the Blues relied heavily on their backup options (Husso, Lindgren, John Gillies, Joel Hofer). Organizational depth is extremely important, especially at the goalie position. Enter Colten Ellis.
Ellis spent most of 2021-22 in the ECHL and got a handful of games in the AHL with Springfield. With Hofer likely taking over as the starting goalie for Springfield and the Blues not bringing in additional competition, the backup job for the Thunderbirds appears to be Ellis’ to lose. Fingers are crossed in St. Louis that they don’t have to use as many goalies in 2022-23 as they did last season. But if an issue arises, it’s very possible that Ellis could see a few games wearing the blue note.
5. Will Bitten – Forward (2016 Round 3 – Montreal Canadiens)
Bitten is a bit old to be a real prospect at 24, but he projects to be an NHL player. He’s a two-way forward with exceptional defensive skills. His size (5-foot-10, 184 pounds), skating ability, and aggressive style have led some to draw comparisons to Brad Marchand – in-your-face and unapologetic. He began last season with the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild) before joining Springfield via trade in December (45 games: 10 goals, 14 assists). He also led the team with 21 points (8G, 13A) during the Calder Cup playoffs. The Blues signed him to a two-year, two-way contract this summer, a sign that they believe he can develop into something more.
Marcus Ashpaugh is a husband, father, coach, and a huge sports fan. He has had a few of his own websites in the past where he published pieces about both the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Blues.