The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will begin Thursday, July 7 and end on Friday, July 8. Over 200 players will be selected and have a chance to earn their spot in the NHL. The draft has seen countless hits and misses along the way with ‘can’t miss prospects’ selected first overall, to the rare gem of a player found in the later rounds, or even going undrafted. This prospect list is not a ranking, but a grouping of the top five prospects in the St. Louis Blues organization selected at various spots in their respective drafts and how they are currently performing.
21-year-old Nikita Alexandrov was selected 62nd overall in the 2nd round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Now with his first full regular season in North America under his belt, he appeared in 67 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League (AHL) where he scored 12 goals and 30 points.
While Alexandrov will not be a prospect that will wow you with first-line potential talent, he is a player that should do well in all areas of the game. The 6-foot-1 forward skates well and can compete in all three zones, a truly complete game type player that Blues fans will enjoy seeing. Due to his size and frame, the German-born Russian is very difficult to knock off the puck and could prove beneficial in the offensive zone to create plays. While he projects as a player that will settle into a middle-six role, it may take him some time to make it to the NHL given the organization’s current depth at the forward position. A few injuries or poor play may result in a call of Alexandrov sooner than later should he continue to develop properly.
After finishing second in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in goals (55) and tying for first place in points on the Quebec Remparts, the 19-year-old Zachary Bolduc is a prospect Blues fans will want to keep their eyes on moving forward.
Selected 17th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, he has visibly skilled hands, good skating ability, and a willingness to fire a shot any chance he gets. This season, he recorded 263 shots on goal over 65 games, averaging just over four shots per game. Armed with a powerful wrist shot and a bevy of confidence, Bolduc is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice. While he may not be NHL-ready just yet, he seems to have the talent to move up as soon as next season. Bolduc signed a three-year entry-level contract on Aug. 24, 2021, worth $4,012,500.
The Springfield Thunderbirds goaltender has made a name for himself in the AHL. Splitting time with fellow netminder, Charlie Lindgren, Hofer recorded an 18-14-6 record, along with a 2.96 goals-against average (GAA), and a .905 save percentage (SV%) in that time. He has 50 professional games under his belt between the Thunderbirds, Utica Comets, and the San Antonio Rampage combining for a 3.05 GAA, .903 SV% and a 22-21-6 record.
Standing at 6-foot-5, the 21-year-old Hofer was selected by the Blues 107th overall during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. During the 2019-20 season, he was named to the U20 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. It was there that he and the Canadian team won a gold medal, and was not only named to the All-Star Team, but as the tournament’s best goaltender with a 1.60 GAA, and .939 SV%.
Hofer is a very calm goaltender that stays patient in the net, square to shooters, and uses his size to his advantage. His skill level and development should help him contend and hold down a starting role in the NHL one day.
The captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Neighbours is a forward that many Blues fans should be familiar with after his nine-game appearance in the NHL this season. The 20-year-old was visibly one of the most noticeable players in training camp and earned his nine-game tryout for a spot on the team’s roster before ultimately being sent back to the WHL. The team’s front office ultimately decided that the forward’s development and opportunity for ice time were more important than remaining in the NHL where he would see a limited role. In his final game with the Blues this season, he played a team-low 6:05.
Neighbours is a blue-collar player with the skill to back up his play. He has a strong base that allows him to protect the puck and be difficult to knock off. This season, he played only 30 games with the Oil Kings where he scored 17 goals and 45 points. He missed 14 games during the end of the season due to an upper-body injury but was able to return before the start of the playoffs. If his development continues, he should be one of the last remaining options for the club to either keep or re-assign to the WHL once more.
The 19-year-old was selected by the Blues with the 71st overall pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Robertsson spent his time overseas split between the Skellefteå AIK of the SHL and the club’s J20 Nationell team, the highest-level junior ice hockey league in Sweden.
During his time in the SHL, Robertsson scored five goals and six points over 48 games, while averaging a team-low 6:45 of average ice time. However, his role increased with the J20 squad where he scored 14 goals and 23 points over 21 games.
The left-shot right winger possesses a shot and scoring ability that ranked highly in his draft class and is considered a reliable and consistent player without the puck as well. Should he continue to develop his skating ability and decision-making with the puck, he has a legitimate chance to be a top-scoring option for the Blues, while also being among one of the team’s top options on the penalty kill.
The smooth-skating 5-foot-10 Scott Perunovich has earned his spot in the NHL and should have no problem maintaining his role next season. At 23-years-old, he has done all that he needs in the AHL after scoring 3 goals and 22 points in 17 games this season.
Perunovich suffered a right wrist injury this year that limited his first season in the NHL to only 19 games. He should quickly become a key part of the franchise’s blue line, and a main contributor on the power play.
The 28-year-old Sam Anas was a standout for the Springfield Thunderbirds and signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Oct. 10, 2020, as a forward with scoring upside. He went undrafted and has made a profession in the minor leagues, four of which were spent with the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. This season with the Thunderbirds, he has served as an alternate captain scoring 20 goals and 64 points in 75 games. It will be an uphill battle for the 5-foot-10 forward to earn a call up to the NHL, but could be a surprise option like the team has seen this season with Nathan Walker.
Drafted 31st overall by the Blues in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Klim Kostin is a big power-forward that can maneuver around defenders and use his body to get past and muscle his way into the offensive zone. While it is taking longer for his development and adjustment to the smaller North American ice, he still provides upside at 23-years-old. He is a restricted free agent after this season and will need to prove his worth if he intends to push for an NHL spot.
The Blues have a multitude of prospects that could fit well into a middle-six role in the near future. However, the club lacks the top-end, top-line scorer or a potential top-pairing, two-way defenseman rising through the ranks for fans to be excited for. While there are multiple talented players to keep an eye on, the depth chart lacks elite talent at this point. The team’s front office will need to do its best to address these concerns as they head into this year’s draft in July.
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.