Player development becomes more important for the Blues as retooling looms

Blues Jimmy Snuggerud prospect You will shoot the disc.

Playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championships In Halifax, Nova Scotia, he attempted 15 shots against Latvia on December 26. fifteen! Snuggerud had 11 scoring opportunities and made seven clean offensive zone entries in that game.

He followed that up with a goal and three assists in Team USA’s 6-2 victory over Finland on Friday. Snuggerud generates positive buzz among independent analysts at the event.

World Junior Championship Switzerland USA Hockey

Jimmy Sngerud of the United States and Switzerland’s Dario Seidler run in front of the net during period two of the IIHJ World Junior Hockey Championships Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Moncton, New Brunswick. (Ron Ward/The Canadian Press via AP)

Ron Ward

Blues fans should heed this promise as they watched their team’s struggles with their eyes open What might happen next.

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Relocation is inevitable for this franchise. While Blues general manager Doug Armstrong remains hopeful his injury-hit team can muster a running back this season, he stands ready to speed up the retooling process if that doesn’t happen.

Armstrong has been impressed by the strong team culture that has kept the Springfield Thunderbirds, USA hockey’s Blues affiliate, competitive this season in the face of injuries.

This is a stark contrast to the Blues’ game, which deteriorated. Armstrong’s unwillingness to reveal the possibilities of that environment this season was telling.

Players with expired contracts may move elsewhere prior to the trade deadline as Armstrong begins adjusting the team’s lineup. The Blues have a handful of promising prospects, but they must acquire more to strengthen their talent base in the long term.

Blues exploration

Blues prospect Nikita Alexandrov, 32, tackles the puck during practices on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, during Blues prospect camp at the Enterprise Center.

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In the near term, forwards Jake Nebors and Nikita Alexandrov and defender Tyler Tucker will test themselves at the NHL level after key forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly join defender Tore Krug on the injured list. Later in the season, defenseman Scott Perunovich will attempt to complete another comeback from another injury.

Snuggerud and Zachary Bolduc are long-term aspirants For a team that needs more firepower up front. The Blues will hope to carve their way into a long-term establishment with key forwards Jordan Keiro and Robert Thomas.

“What you want to do is control expectations. Singerud is having a great year. Bolduc is having a very good year, jake (neighbors) … But they’re 20, 19, 18 years old,” Armstrong told reporters. “And so their impact will come in two or three years, which is probably very good for this organization, because Thomas and Kyro are still on their way to achieving absolute stability in That stage.”

The Blues drafted Snuggerud #22 in the NHL draft last season. He’s a right-handed winger – like left-back David Peron – and has good instincts.

After two productive seasons with the US National Development Team, Snuggerud scored 12 goals in his first 20 games at the University of Minnesota of the season and four goals in his first four games at the WJC.

Scouts have long cited his ability to make plays and retrieve the offensive puck as well—these are items the Blues should add to future rosters. While Snuggerud isn’t as transformative a prospect as Conor Bedard, a likely first overall pick this year, he could fill a need.

Neighbours, the 26th overall pick in 2020, is another master piece. He got his spice up this season while playing the big AHL minutes on the wing, and he began to build more offensive confidence as he scored seven goals and two assists in his last nine games.

Given Armstrong’s warning against rising expectations, we won’t repeat that he has Scott Mellanby-like potential as a power forward.

Bolduc, the 17th overall pick in 2021, puts up the insane numbers one would expect a skilled forward to post in the Quebec Major League Hockey League. He had 22 goals and 33 assists in the 29 games he played this season.

It will be interesting to see how he performs in the upcoming Blues training camp with added physical and emotional maturity. Can he strengthen his game away from the puck? How long will he need in the AHL?

Aleksandrov became an impact player in the second year in the AHL, and did not look out of place in the NHL. But the Blues have to make sure he’s fully developed before he graduates.

Same goes for Tucker, who provides the fight Robert Bortuzzo adds to the blue line. He could make it No. 6/No. 7 defense if he adds enough polish.

Goaltender Joel Hoover appears to be taking those final steps for the Thunderbirds this season while playing behind a team with a solid defensive structure but not a lot of firepower.

“A guy like Joel Hoover, he’s been great in the NHL this year,” Armstrong said. “You look at his numbers, it’s off the charts. Again, playing against a team who don’t score for them but play down the right flank. So there are a lot of positives with some of these younger players that we can build on. But you have to control expectations.”

Armstrong also reminds us what it takes to make that transition. Sustaining competition through the process will be difficult.

He said, “Like Kero, where he is today and where he was at 19, 20, 21 years old, you can’t rush time and you can’t rush experience.”

Jake Neighbors of the St. Louis Blues on Monday, July 11, 2022 predicts what it takes to make a Blues roster and succeed in the NHL. Video provided by St. Louis Blues.

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