What Do The Blues Do With The Newly Acquired Depth?
Last season, the Blues lost T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Brendan Morrow, Vladimir Sobotka, Derek Roy, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrik Berglund late in the season and into the playoffs. So this saw Adam Cracknell, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie, and Keith Aucoin playing in roles they weren't accustomed too. They lack of depth on a team who "boasted" depth played a key role in the Blues losing streak at the end of last season.
This year is different however. Despite losing Cracknell (Los Angeles Kings) and Vladimir Sobotka (KHL), this off-season, the Blues added a lot more depth so they wouldn't have to face the same situation this year. The Blues added Peter Mueller, Jori Lehtera, Phil McRae, and Joakim Lindstrom from Europe, and signed Colin Fraser (Kings), Jeremy Welsh (Vancouver Canucks), Benn Ferriero (Vancouver Canucks/Utica Comets), and John McCarthy (San Jose Sharks) to bolster their depth.
It's a given that Fraser, McCarthy, Ferriero, McRae, and Welsh will start with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. Meanwhile, the Blues will have many other fighting for roster spots.
The top six is set with Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, and David Backes. The fourth line of Max Lapierre, Ryan Reaves, and Steve Ott is also set. That leaves the third line. Jori Lehtera and Patrik Berglund are likely locked into their spots as well. Leaving Magnus Paajarvi, Joakim Lindstrom, Peter Mueller, Ty Rattie, and Dmitrij Jaskin fighting for the last spot in the line up.
As of right now, despite packing on some muscle, Ty Rattie, who's now up to 190 lbs, is destined to spend another year in the AHL with the Wolves. He scored 31 goals as a rookie last season, and the Blues will likely want him to rack up as much playing time as he possible can.
Dmitrij Jaskin could very well start in the AHL as well. He doesn't need waivers to be sent down and he'll likely lose his spot for the reason alone. The Blues signed their depth for a reason, and they'll want to keep as much as possible of it. Despite his work with a power-skating coach this summer, and despite being NHL ready, we could see Jaskin as a first call up option instead of a full time NHLer to start the year.
That leaves Lindstrom, Paajarvi, and Mueller. One will be in the starting line up, one will end up as a healthy scratch, while the last could end up on waivers.
So far during the informal skates, Lindstrom is looking like the guy who could end up starting the season in the line up. Lindstrom has had a few different stints in the AHL, with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes). He's a two-way forward who's spent the last few seasons with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League. He's an capable offensive player who's improved his speed and defensive play over the last three seasons. At 30 years old, this will likely be his make it or break it season in the NHL. He'll be fighting for everything he gets, but could very well end up as a steady contributor in the NHL or he could flop and eventually end up back in Sweden.
Peter Mueller is a very interesting player to watch. A former 8th overall pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, is attempting an NHL comeback after spending a year in Switzerland with the Kloten Flyers. Mueller started his career by posting 54 points (22 goals) with the Coyotes in the 2007-08 season. It was the only time Mueller scored 20 goals in the NHL.
His career was derailed by concussions, which limited him to just 297 games (63 goals, 97 assists, 160 points) in six seasons in the NHL. He missed more than 150 games with injuries, including many different concussions. Now there is no question the skill is there, but the biggest question is, can he remain healthy. He'll really have to have a solid camp to make the opening night line up.
Lastly, we look at Magnus Paajarvi. He remains the biggest question mark of all the players battling for a roster spot. The Swedish forward was selected 10th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft by the Edmonton Oilers. He was rushed into the NHL a year later, playing in 80 games for the Oilers. Paajarvi scored 15 goals, 19 assists for 34 points. A solid season for a rookie playing his first season in the NHL.
After that, the Oilers heavily misused Paajarvi, playing him sparingly (just 41 games the next season, and then 38 the season after that. He was moved up and down from the AHL and when he saw NHL time, it was generally in a fourth line role.
Paajarvi played his first season with the Blues last year, and the Blues put a lot of effort into rounding out Paajarvi's two way game. He has the offensive skills, the speed, and the defensive game to be an effective top nine forward in the NHL, and at only 23 years old, he still has time to develop into a full-time NHLer. However, if he starts to produce and if he can solidify himself as an everyday player is entirely up to him. Only time will tell.
As of right now, it's looking like Lindstrom will be the guy in the opening night line up, while Paajarvi would end up the healthy scratch. Now if the Blues opt to carry two extra forwards, Mueller could end up being a healthy scratch as well. If not, he could end up on waivers prior to the season.
Leave your thoughts in the comments and let me know how you feel the roster will shake out.