St. Louis Blues’ Top 10 Prospects for 2022-23

The St. Louis Blues don’t have a deep prospect pool due in large part to their high level of success at the NHL level for the past decade plus. They’re accustomed to picking late in the first round, or sometimes not at all due to trades – a method general manager Doug Armstrong has used often to the club’s advantage.

The team added a few key names this summer via the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. In all, the Blues made six selections, forward Jimmy Snuggerud (Round 1), center Aleksanteri Kaskimaki (Round 3), defenseman Michael Buchinger (Round 3), defenseman Arseni Koromyslov (Round 4), defenseman Marc-Andre Gaudet, and forward Landon Sim (Round 6). They also graduated a few players from prospect status last season in Alexey Toropchenko and Klim Kostin. Since they didn’t land any prospects via trade this summer, the Blues’ prospect pool is mostly comprised of draft picks.

My rankings are based on the player’s age (under 25 years old), NHL games played (less than 30), overall potential, and performance from the previous season. Here are the Blues’ top 10 prospects for 2022-23.

10. Matthew Kessel – Defenseman, 2020 Round 5, 150th Overall, 22 Years Old

Matthew Kessel has the size teams look for in traditional defensemen (6-foot-3, 203 pounds). He is a right-handed shot who projects to be a second or third pairing at the NHL level. Since being taken by the Blues in the 5th round of the 2020 Draft, he played out his remaining two years at the University of Massachusetts before signing his entry-level contract (ELC) this spring. He logged 15 regular season games with the Springfield Thunderbirds (Blues’ American Hockey League affiliate) as well as playing in all 18 of their playoff games.

Related: Blues Prospects: Who’s Next in Line?

Kessel is a two-way defenseman. He’s going to score enough to keep opposing teams on their toes when he has the puck, but his greatest asset is his defensive ability in his own zone. He doesn’t project to be much of a point producer at the next level, so he will have to rely on hard work and the more fundamental aspects of the game to make it to St. Louis.

Projected NHL ETA: 2023

9. Simon Robertsson – Forward, 2021 Round 3, 71st Overall, 19 Years Old

Simon Robertsson was seen as the steal of the 2021 Draft as he was ranked as a mid-first-round talent by most scouts. He’s very gifted offensively, possessing one of the smoothest wrist shots in his draft class. Since being drafted, however, it’s been a bumpy road. In 48 games with Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), he scored only six points, five of which were goals and averaged less than seven minutes of ice time each night. Once he was demoted to their junior squad, he saw all of his numbers increase significantly (14 goals, 9 assists in 21 games).

Robertsson will continue playing in the SHL this season with the Blues hoping he can re-establish himself as a top-tier prospect. Once he gets his game going in the right direction again, his high hockey IQ and ability to finish chances project him to be a top-six winger.

Projected NHL ETA: 2024 or 2025

8. Nikita Alexandrov – Center, 2019 Round 2, 31st Overall, 21 Years Old

A two-way center with above-average skating ability, Nikita Alexandrov projects to be a middle-six forward at the NHL level. In 67 games last year in Springfield, he scored 12 goals and put up 30 total points. It’s tough to project him to be more of a scoring threat at the next level, as his value lies more in being an all-around player who competes in all three zones and maintains control with the puck.

Nikita Alexandrov of the Charlottetown Islanders
Nikita Alexandrov (courtesy Charlottetown Islanders)

The Blues currently have plenty of forward depth, both at the NHL and AHL levels. For Alexandrov to garner any NHL service time in 2022-23, it’ll likely have to come at the expense of injury. He’ll begin this season likely as one of the top two centers for the Thunderbirds as he aims to continue his development. However, there’s always a chance he breaks out early and forces St. Louis to give him a chance.

Projected NHL ETA: 2023 or 2024

7. Aleksanteri Kaskimaki – Center, 2022 Round 3, 73rd Overall, 18 Years Old

Aleksanteri Kaskimaki is a very gifted offensive-minded center who has great skills with the puck and is a talented playmaker. The center from Finland spent most of 2021-22 with U-20 SM Sarja, scoring 19 goals and 40 points in just 31 games. He shows great puck handling skills, moves the puck well through the neutral zone, and creates space offensively when he doesn’t have the puck. However, to be a center at the NHL level, he will need to improve defensively. As it stands right now, he’s one of the key pieces to the Blues’ organizational forward depth and has the ability to be a top-six center in the future. He’ll spend 2022-23 in Finland.

Projected NHL ETA: 2025

6. Dylan Peterson – Forward, 2020 Round 3, 86th Overall, 20 Years Old

Being 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, and able to play all three forward positions, it’s easy to see how Dylan Peterson could be in the NHL within a few years. In 2021-22, his second year with Boston University, he scored 16 points (10 goals, 6 assists) in 29 games. While those aren’t eye-popping numbers, the bet on Peterson is more of a projection as to what many think he can develop into. He’s a good skater who can finish his plays, but needs to work on helping to create scoring opportunities. He’ll play this coming season with Boston University, so there’s no rush to get him to St. Louis.

Projected NHL ETA: 2024

5. Joel Hofer – Goalie, 2018 Round 4, 118th Overall, 22 Years Old

Joel Hofer split time in the AHL last season with former Blues backup Charlie Lindgren for the Thunderbirds, going 18-14-6 with a .905 save percentage (SV%) in 39 regular season games. He shined bright in his 10 playoff starts, going 6-4-0 with a .934 SV% and a goals against average (GAA) of 2.56. He even logged two games with the Blues last season, earning his first career NHL victory (1-1-0).

Related: St. Louis Blues’ 4 Untouchable Prospects for 2022-23

Hofer has the size (6-foot-5, 179 pounds) to be a goaltender in the NHL. He’s also known for being very calm in the crease, maintaining a high level of focus, and does a great job at keeping his shoulders square to the puck. He will be the starter for Springfield to start 2022-23 and is next in line for the Blues if needed.

Projected NHL ETA: 2023* (debuted in 2021-22)

4. Jake Neighbours – Forward, 2020 Round 1, 26th Overall, 20 Years Old

Jake Neighbours performed so well last season in training camp and the preseason that he earned himself a nine-game trial with the Blues to begin the year. Ultimately, to continue his development, he was returned to the Western Hockey League (WHL) to finish out the season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. While wearing the captain’s “C” in Edmonton, he scored 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 30 regular season games and another 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in their 16-game playoff run that led to a championship.

Jake Neighbours Edmonton Oil Kings
Jake Neighbours of the Edmonton Oil Kings (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

As much as he is a scoring threat on offense, Neighbours is also renowned for his physicality on the forecheck, backcheck, and in open ice. His skill, hockey IQ, and compete level are NHL-ready. Right now, he projects to be a top-nine winger. If he can add more scoring to his game, he should be seen as a future top-six winger.

Projected NHL ETA: 2022* (debuted in 2021-22)

3. Jimmy Snuggerud – Forward, 2022 Round 1, 23rd Overall, 18 Years Old

Jimmy Snuggerud is built like a traditional NHL power forward, but possesses a more refined skill set. He’s big (6-foot-2), has a solid frame (185 pounds), and displays a heavy shot as well as the ability to facilitate opportunities for his teammates. Last season with the US National Development Team, he scored 26 points (6 goals, 20 assists) with a plus/minus of plus-15 in 26 games.

Snuggerud’s greatest tool is his heavy shot, which he effectively uses anywhere in the offensive zone. His exceptional positional awareness allows him to be a solid contributor defensively as well, utilizing both his size and drive to be effective. He’s considered by many to be a future top-six winger at the highest level. He’s committed to playing the 2022-23 season with the University of Minnesota alongside a handful of other top-tier NHL prospects like Brock Faber, Matthew Knies, and Logan Cooley.

Projected NHL ETA: 2024 or 2025

2. Scott Perunovich – Defenseman, 2018 Round 2, 45th Overall, 24 Years Old

The Blues finally got to see Scott Perunovich in St. Louis last season. In 26 total NHL games (19 regular season, 7 playoffs), he tallied 10 total points (10 assists). Before his call-up, he was the leading scorer for the Thunderbirds, putting up 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists) in just 17 games. He suffered a broken wrist in January, had surgery on said wrist in April, and was unable to return to the Blues until the playoffs, where he was relied upon when Torey Krug went down with an injury himself.

Scott Perunovich St. Louis Blues
Scott Perunovich, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Perunovich is known for being a great skater, but his calling card is his passing ability. With such a strong passing skill, he’s crucial to the power play unit. Being an offensive defenseman, effectively moving the puck out of the defensive zone and then quarterbacking the power play are going to be his keys to succeeding at the NHL level. Though, with the log jam of left-handed defensemen in St. Louis, it’s difficult to see him logging proper minutes to continue his development. But at this point, he’s NHL-ready and should be with the big team to begin the season.

Projected NHL ETA: 2022* (debuted in 2021-22)

1. Zachary Bolduc – Center, 2021 Round 1, 17th Overall, 19 Years Old

Selecting Zachary Bolduc with the 17th overall pick in 2021 was seen as a bit of a reach at the time, as he was projected to be more of a late first/early second-round pick. But last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), he proved his worthiness of such a high pick by scoring 55 goals and 99 total points in 65 games. In those 65 games, he also recorded 263 shots (4.07 shots per game), displaying his penchant for taking as many shots as he can.

Zachary Bolduc Rimouski Oceanic
Zachary Bolduc of Rimouski Oceanic (Iften Redjah – Foliophoto)

To go along with his high-quality shooting skill, Bolduc is also solid defensively and is just as hard of a worker without the puck as he is with it. He could use some more seasoning in the QMJHL, but he has the overall skills of a top-six NHL forward. All eyes will be on him in training camp and the preseason, as he has a legitimate shot to break camp with the Blues.

Projected NHL ETA: 2023

Honorable Mentions

  • Colten Ellis – Goalie, 2019 Round 3, 93rd Overall, 21 Years Old. NHL ETA: 2024
  • Arseni Koromyslov – Defenseman, 2022 Round 4, 120th Overall, 18 Years Old. NHL ETA: 2026
  • Tanner Dickinson – Forward, 2020 Round 4, 119th Overall, 20 Years Old. NHL ETA: 2023
  • Leo Loof – Defenseman, 2020 Round 3, 88th Overall, 20 Years Old. NHL ETA: 2025

Final Thoughts

While the Blues’ prospect pool isn’t considered to be particularly strong, Bolduc, Perunovich, Snuggerud, Neighbours, and Hofer all project to be legitimate NHLers in the near future. With general manager Doug Armstrong mostly acquiring young talent via the draft and not as much through trade, the franchise has to be both lucky and good when it comes to their talent evaluations. Even though the current management team under Armstrong is used to picking in the latter half of each round, they’ve still been able to find marquee talent to keep retooling this team year after year.

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What are your thoughts on my Blues prospect list? Did I leave someone off? Am I too high or too low on a player? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!