The 2021-22 NHL season begins October 12. With the opening of training camps, NHL.com takes a look at the Three Keys, the scoop on roster issues and the planned lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Saint-Louis Blues.
Last season: 27-20-9; fourth in the Honda West Division, lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup first round
1. Tarasenko resolution
It seems forward Vladimir Tarasenko will begin the season with the Blues, despite a trade request on May 25. The length of his stay in St. Louis is uncertain, but if Tarasenko can stay healthy it would be a huge boost for the Blues. He has played 34 games in the past two seasons in part due to shoulder injuries and has had three left shoulder surgeries since the end of the 2017-18 season. Last season, he scored 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 24 regular season games and two goals in four Stanley Cup playoff games.
2. Strengthen defense
The Blues allowed 2.98 goals per game last season, 19th in the NHL and the most goals they have allowed since allowing 3.02 in 2006-07. They were outscored 20-7 in a four-game playoff loss to the Avalanche.
A healthy Colton Parayko, who missed 21 games with a back injury last season, will anchor a top-four group that includes Justin Faulk, Torey krug and Marco Scandella. They will have a new third pair following the retirement of Carl Gunnarsson and the loss of Vince Dunn to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Candidates include Jake Walman, Niko Mikkola, Robert Bortuzzo and Scott Perunovitch, who received the 2020 Hobey Baker award as the best male NCAA ice hockey player, but missed last season with a left shoulder injury.
Video: 2021-22 St. Louis Blues Season Preview
3. Binnington bounces back
Goalkeeper Jordan Binnington was 18-14-8 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 42 games last season, a drop in performance and consistency from his previous two seasons; he was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage in 32 games and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2018-19 and won 30 victories in 2019-20. St. Louis needs Binnington to be at a level closer to his first two seasons in the NHL to be successful.
SUMMARY OF THE LIST
There will be openings on the last two rows before, especially with Oskar Sundqvist is expected to start the season on the long-term injured list after surgery in March to repair an ACL tear in his left knee. Klim Kostin, the 31st pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, will stand a chance after scoring 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 43 games with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League last season. Tarasenko, Robert thomas and Jordanie Kyrou could land anywhere on the first three rows. Also in the mix are Kyle Clifford and Tyler Bozak, in the same way James Neal and Michel Frolik, each of which participates in the training camp as part of a professional trial contract.
Most intriguing addition
The Blues signed forward Brandon Saad to a five-year contract on July 29 after scoring 24 points (15 goals, nine assists) in 44 regular season games and eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 10 playoff games with the Avalanche last season. Les Bleus hope Saad can replace lost production up front Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year contract with the Seattle Kraken on July 28.
The biggest potential surprise
The Blues have acquired the striker Pavel Boutchnevitch in a trade with the New York Rangers on July 23 in anticipation of Tarasenko’s trade, but there is now the option for the Russian-born Wings to be teammates. Buchnevich is expected to benefit from a slight increase in opportunities and ice time, power play and penalty kill, and could see his production increase after scoring a career-high 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games last season.
Ready to drill
Kostin has played six NHL games in four seasons in North America since the Blues drafted him, including a two-game assist last season. But this may be the time when the 22-year-old finally makes an impact. He will have every chance of winning a place in one of the nine leading roles.
Saad (fantastic draft average position: 168.3) was second on the Avalanche in goals (seven in 10 games) behind elite center Nathan MacKinnon (eight in 10 games) during the playoffs and brings valuable experience and late-round fantasy after signing with the Blues. He is a candidate for a spot on the left side of the elite center Ryan O’Reilly at equal force. Saad has scored 15 goals in 44 regular season games (pace 82, 27 goals) in 2020-21 and had scored at least 21 in five of his previous six seasons. – Pete Jensen
David Perron – Ryan O’Reilly – Jordan Kyrou
Ivan Barbachev — Brayden Schenn — Pavel Buchnevich
Brandon Saad — Robert Thomas — Vladimir Tarasenko
Klim Kostin — Tyler Bozak — Kyle Clifford
Torey Krug – Justin Faulk
Jake Walman — Colton Parayko
Marco Scandella – Robert Bortuzzo