Camp so far: Projecting the Forwards

Going into camp, most of the roster that will be on the bench on Opening Day was known. One of the biggest questions that coach Mike Yeo has to answer is: which forwards will earn the last few spots up for grabs.

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Dmitrij Jaskin scored in Sunday’s preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, furthering his campaign to earn a spot in the bottom 6 forwards.

That is not yet determined, but halfway through the preseason schedule, the possible answers are taking shape.

Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas are both playing very well, by all accounts. They had 4 points, all assists, in today’s game. Both the front office and coaching staff pinpointed them as strong possibilities to make the club, before camp started. They are living up to those expectations. But surpassing them all is Sammy Blais. With 2 goals in today’s game, he seems to be cementing his spot on the roster. He has earned praise from coach and teammates alike.

We can safely project the following forwards to be on the Opening Night roster:

LW                          C                          RW

J. Schwartz            R. O’Reilly          V. Tarasenko

D. Perron               B. Schenn           P. Maroon

A. Steen                  T. Bozak

That leaves 4 spots in play.  Let’s pencil in Blais as our 3rd line right winger. There are now 3 spots to be filled by some combination of Kyrou, Thomas, Jaskin, Fabbri, Soshnikov, Thorburn, Barbashev, Sanford, Sundqvist, Stevens, Nolan, Kostin, Musil, and McEachern. Wow that’s a lot of options.

If we project that both Kyrou and Thomas will continue their quality play and thus earn roster spots, there would be, at most, 3 spots left to fill in the forward corps. That assumes that the Blues will carry 2 extra forwards and 1 extra defenseman.

Let me talk about Robby Fabbri for a minute. He apparently sustained a muscular injury during today’s game. This is the second minor injury he’s had to deal with as he attempt to come back from knee surgery. To me, the smart course of action is to take it very, very, very slow with Fabbri’s progress. We’re all watching this as fans, very concerned that he’ll take a hit to his knee and put him down for the season, for a 3rd time. He is very talented, and we hope the best for him. We hope he’ll make a full recovery and do great things for the St. Louis Blues. Maybe, though, it’s not wise to count on him for a while. As in, well into the season – give him time to further strengthen his knee and get in game shape. So for purposes of this speculation, I’m exempting him from roster consideration.

I think Jaskin has pretty much earned his spot, given his production in these preseason games. And he’s a serviceable player, with offensive upside that’s not yet realized. Let’s mark him as safe. Chris Thorburn is under contract for this year, at a one-way rate. And he’s a veteran with a specific profile that the Blues wanted when they signed him last offseason. Let’s also mark him as a roster lock.

I also think that Nolan, Stevens, Musil, and Kostin will be minor-league bound by the end of camp. That puts us down to 1 roster spot to fill with Soshnikov, Sanford, Barbashev, Sundqvist, or McEachern.

Now, Soshnikov has yet to play in a preseason game, so he’s working from a heavy disadvantage for the rest of camp. Sanford has also missed time, unfortunately due to an unexpected death in his family.

Of course, the situation can change between the time of this writing and when the roster is announced. My prediction is that that last forward spot will go to Barbashev.

My reasoning is this: He’s a high draft pick that has showed potential. He adds yet more skill to the bottom 6. I looked at his goals from last season; he has quite a wrist shot. Watch his goal on Carey Price on January 30, 2018. He needs to do that more, and I think he’ll get the opportunity. The Blues will want to see what they really have with Ivan.

Let’s pencil in the lines now:

LW                           C                            RW

J. Schwartz             R. O’Reilly            V. Tarasenko

D. Perron                B. Schenn             P. Maroon

A. Steen                  T. Bozak                S. Blais

D. Jaskin                 I. Barbashev        J. Kyrou

Extras: R. Thomas, C. Thorburn

Wow that’s real scoring punch on all 4 lines. It’s seriously deep.

I know this is all speculation. The Opening Night roster could look a lot different from this, but it’s fun to play with the combos. I can’t wait to see what it really will be on October 4th.

 

 

 

 

 

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