The offseason is coming to an end. In a mere few weeks, we will know what the Blues’ lineup will look like at the start of the season. General manager Doug Armstrong brought in some new players this offseason, but there’s also talent in the organization who look ready to take on bigger roles with the team.
Here are a few Blues players worth paying attention to when camp officially opens.
This is an obvious one. Brayden Schenn is the biggest new name joining the Blues this season. He scored a total of 25 goals and 55 points with the Philadelphia Flyers last season and will be looking to make a name for himself in St. Louis this season, likely playing on the second line. The real question is will he be a winger or a center?
Most of the line projections online right now, such as this one from dailyfaceoff.com, list Schenn as playing right wing to Alexander Steen. He has played center in the past for the Flyers though his NHL.com page lists him as a center. If that wasn’t enough there’s even this article where GM Doug Armstrong says coach Mike Yeo will give Schenn a chance to play in the middle.
The case for making Schenn the second line center gets stronger when you realize that Steen is really a left winger. If the Blues use Steen over Schenn at center they will be wasting a talent much more suited to the position. I would think Schenn will be given a chance to start at center. If things don’t go well for him in the preseason though he may be moved to the wing.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve forgotten who Ivan Barbashev is. The 21-year-old Russian forward spent most of his time in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves last season. He did, however, get called up to the Blues for a total of 30 games last year, and also played in six of St. Louis’ playoff games.
Barbashev looks as if he is ready to take the next step and join the Blues permanently this season. In his time with the team last year he scored five goals and 12 points. Based off of those numbers it’s easy to see him being a 30 point player. Barbashev isn’t a guy who will come in and light up the scoresheet, but he is someone who can provide some much needed offensive depth.
What’s more, he stays out of the penalty box. In his entire 30-game regular season last year, he took only a single penalty. He’s a bottom six forward you can trust not to cost you the game by taking a dumb penalty. That’s a valuable piece to have late in a close game. There’s no certainty that he will be able to join the team full time this season, but all signs indicate that he’s ready to.
With more money comes more responsibility. Colton Parayko signed a $27.5 million, five-year contract with the Blues earlier this summer and now will have to show that he’s worth it. It’ll mean more ice time and playing against the best players that opponents have to offer.
St. Louis will be counting on Parayko to step up after the departure of Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline last season. This means that he will likely see more time on the power play and penalty kill than he has in the past. Unfortunately for Blues fans, the big paycheque doesn’t mean he’ll be expected to replace Shattenkirk’s offensive production.
In the 81 games the Canadian D-man played last season, he only managed to score four goals. However, he will be able to help on the power play. He did have 31 assists and will play a key role in getting the puck to the forwards in scoring areas.
Parayko’s main job this season is to be one of the Blues’ top pairing defensemen and shut down the opposition’s top players. Is he up to the challenge that comes with his new contract? In a few short weeks we’ll have a much better idea.