After squeaking into the playoffs in 2008-2009, the Blues fell short last season, but the roster is full of talented young players capable of getting to the postseason again, especially with their summer upgrade in net.
One reason for optimism about the Blues' chances is the acquisition of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, Montreal's playoff hero who owns a .919 save percentage in 101 career games. Halak will likely see more action than he has in any season to this point, so his value is ready to take off if he can handle the heavier workload.
Another who could be ready for breakthrough is defenceman and 2006 first overall pick, Erik Johnson, who now has a full year under his belt after missing the 2008-2009 season with a knee injury. Johnson is a massive physical presence and last year's 39 points could be just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the best players outside the NHL last season, Alex Pietrangelo will have a chance to play a rookie season even though he's not eligible for the Calder (having played more than six games in two different seasons). It seems that the process has been gradual with Pietrangelo, but the 20-year-old should now be ready to not only play, but contribute.
If Pietrangelo isn't ready for a primetime role, Carlo Colaiacovo is still available to fulfill puck-moving defenceman duties. Colaiacovo has well-documented injury problems, but scored a career-high 32 points (along with a plus-8 rating and 60 penalty minutes) in 67 games for the Blues last season, making him a viable fantasy performer in deep leagues.
T.J. Oshie didn't make a quantum leap in his second season, yet the 23-year-old is held in high regard for his combination of skill and hard-nosed style of play. He has yet to tally 20 goals or 50 points in an NHL season, but both of those marks (and more) are achievable for him.
Power forward David Backes is somewhat of a fantasy darling, with a rare ability to combine points and penalty minutes. He's one of just three players to have put up at least 100 points and 250 penalty minutes total over the last two seasons. The expectation is that his big body is going to shift back to the wing this season and right wing eligibility only enhances his value.
28-year-old Brad Boyes is considered a veteran in this group and, with 76 goals between 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, he's a proven producer. However, he slumped to 14 goals last year, scoring on a ridiculously low percentage of his shots (7.1% -- his career average is 13.2%).
Thus, Boyes could be in for a bounceback season if pucks just start going in at a more typical rate and he is a safe one to draft because he's missed one game in five NHL seasons.
While Alexander Steen managed a career-high 47 points last season, there is more optimism about his game due to his strong finish (19 points in his last 20 games). Steen plays a sound two-way game and has some versatility, so it will be interesting to see if he's put in a position to build on those offensive numbers.
Shifty Andy McDonald is expected to move back to centre this season, after quite a bit of time on left wing in recent years. McDonald has surpassed 75 points twice in his career, so he's one of the Blues with an offensive track record, but he's also a plus-minus risk, having accumulated a minus-43 rating in the last three seasons.
Talented 22-year-old David Perron scored a career-high 20 goals last season, but that was offset somewhat by his minus-10 rating. Perron has already played three NHL seasons, so he's a veteran even at his young age, and is due to play a bigger role, earning more minutes and, presumably, more points.
Coming off a sophomore slump, during which his points dropped from 47 as a rookie to 26 last year, Patrik Berglund is a big and skilled centre who should be able to bounce back, due in part to the calibre of linemates available to him. If Berglund secures a spot in the top six forwards, he's liable to surpass his rookie numbers.
|Alexander Steen||Andy McDonald||Brad Boyes|
|David Perron||Patrik Berglund||T.J. Oshie|
|B.J. Crombeen||Jay McClement||David Backes|
|Brad Winchester||Vladimir Sobotka||Cam Janssen|
|Brett Sonne||T.J. Hensick||Matt D'Agostini|
|Erik Johnson||Roman Polak|
|Barret Jackman||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Carlo Colaiacovo||Eric Brewer|
|Ian Cole||Tyson Strachan|