The St. Louis Blues have been preparing for training camp to get the team ready for the regular season, as they should, but they’ve also been extending invitations to new players. In light of a rather uneventful offseason and an injury to center Patrik Berglund, they’ve got some openings that seasoned or new NHL players might fit perfectly.
The former Devil, Ranger, Canadien, Shark and Panther is hoping to find a new home as a Bluenote. As a 15-year veteran of the league, his experience is something to be noted, but the real question is whether not Gomez has enough in the tank to be a productive member of the team.
Although he’s never been an elite goal scorer, Gomez does have a special talent for assists, totaling 567 in his 1,045 NHL games. When compared to his mere 180 goals in that time, his play-making ability is what sticks out about his game. Overall, the tryout wasn’t wasted on a once 30-goal scorer in the league.
On the other end of the spectrum is a 23-year-old, 6-foot-6 forward from British Columbia. Asuchak has never played in an NHL game and would therefore make his debut if he were to make the team. He notably had 56 points (21G, 35A) in 66 games for the Allen Americans of the CHL back in the 2013-14 regular season, with another 11 points (4G, 11A) in 17 games in the playoffs.
His size and offensive prowess make Asuchak a good choice for the Blues; however, his relative lack of experience coupled with a rather full defense make him a less than likely choice.
Continuing with the trend of size, the Blues offered a tryout to the 6-foot-4-inch, 27-year-old Hayes. The winger has played in the USHL, the WCHA and the AHL, as well as 19 games in the NHL as a member of the San Jose Sharks. During those games, Hayes scored his first NHL goal for his only point and found himself with a minus-4 rating.
Again, his size is a great advantage to have in the lineup and he could fit well on a fourth-line role to start out his NHL career with the Blues.
The right winger from Newfoundland goes against the traditional grain of size in the NHL standing only 5 feet 9 inches. At 23-years old, O’Brien has played in a few leagues as well, including the QMJHL, the AHL and the ECHL. Despite his relative lack of size, he’s been able to hold up well over the course of his career, playing in upwards of 60 games three times. During his time with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the QMJHL, O’Brien managed an impressive 101 points (50G, 51A) in only 63 games in 2011-12, and then the next season continued his high production with 92 points (47G, 45A).
While his success is impressive, it’s not necessarily equivalent to NHL success. The fact of the matter is that if he were half as productive for the Blues during the regular season as he was for the Titans, it’d be a great rookie campaign. The question is whether or not that opportunity will present itself.
The Alaska native is 27-years old and stands 5 feet 10 inches, while weighing 155 pounds, making him neither the biggest nor the smallest player in the locker room. Over the last 10 years, he’s played for eight teams in five leagues including the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. The last two years, he’s played in the AHL for the Abbotsford Heat and the Worcester Sharks. Between the two seasons, he had 47 points (17G, 30A) which is neither unimpressive nor is it extremely noteworthy.
As far as forwards go, he is, for lack of a better word, average. He’s got some experience in leagues that often produce excellent players, but he’s yet to prove he belongs in that category. He could be a good option as either the extra forward or the fourth line for the Blues. It really just depends on which players St. Louis already has on its roster.
A name that should ring some bells is Scottie Upshall. He’s played for five NHL teams including the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers. The now free agent was the sixth overall pick by the Predators back in 2002 and has 15 NHL seasons under his belt.
In 553 games, he has totaled a mere 234 points (115G, 119A), which is rather few for a first round pick. The Blues, however, could use him in the event of an injury, or he could find a place in the lineup as a third- or fourth-line winger. His biggest obstacle will be the level of talent and potential the younger forwards have, as well as their speed. If he can keep up with them as a 31-year old during training camp, it just might earn him a spot on his sixth NHL team.
Tryout contracts are by no means a binding ordeal. In fact, they oftentimes aren’t that meaningful at all. If the aforementioned players do excel during training camp, they have a chance of joining the roster, but with limited space and a lot of hopefuls, the likelihood of that happening is rather slim.
Which of these players do you think has the best chance of playing for the Gateway City? Leave your thoughts in the comments.