Monday, July 24, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days - St. Louis Blues

St. Louis continues to draft heavily from the OHL.

1. Jordan Kyrou - Sarnia Sting
Fantastic year for Kyrou, who has emerged as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the OHL. He's such a slippery player because of his skating ability. Off the rush, he's explosive and difficult to contain, but his play within the offensive zone really improved this year as he added strength. Much more effective at maintaining puck possession and playing through traffic, especially looking to use his speed to attack the middle of the ice. Also was more aggressive in looking to shoot the puck this year, something I highlighted in last year's write-up. Moving forward, I think Kyrou still needs to make some improvements to his two-way game. Would love to see him using his speed to be more of a factor on the forecheck and on the PK. Kyrou finished just outside the top 5 in scoring this year, so next year it's reasonable to think that he could crack the top 5 and the 100 point mark. He's a legitimate offensive talent who could be an impact top 6 forward at the NHL level within a few years.

2. Robert Thomas - London Knights
The Blues made a great pick with Thomas in the first round this year. If you read my draft rankings, I'm a huge fan. Thomas is already an excellent two-way player who shows a great head for the game and dynamic skating ability. Now I'm interested to see how his offensive game grows over the next two years in London. Thomas is an excellent playmaker who shows great vision, especially off the rush. But his shot will need to improve to keep teams honest. Gaining more confidence in this is a major next step for him (Thomas finished 12th in shots per game among Knights' players this year, behind three defenders). An offseason spent on getting stronger to be able to win puck battles more consistently will also help. Being able to maintain possession longer will only make him more dangerous because of his vision. Thomas will be a go to offensive player yet again in London and I would expect a numbers jump. An 80+ point season with 25+ goals is definitely a realistic expectation IMO.

3. Luke Opilka - Kitchener Rangers
Another tough year for Opilka in Kitchener. He once again battled consistency issues and some injuries, actually posting worse numbers than the year before. He remains an enigma. There were a few games that I caught this year (including one in the playoffs), where Opilka was absolutely fantastic, utilizing his athleticism to be a brick wall. But then there were a few other times where he couldn't seem to stop a beach ball. Positioning is still a weakness for sure. Quite frankly, he just needs to play consistently. I still believe there is potential for him to develop as a pro goaltender. The question is, where will that journey take him next year? He could return to the OHL as an overager, but that's if there is a team that wants him. Kitchener has some young goaltenders and may not want to use an OA spot on Opilka, especially given that Luke Richardson largely outplayed him this year. Would another OHL team take him? It's possible. The Blues also have Opilka under contract and could choose to play him in the ECHL. I guess we'll see.

4. Trenton Bourque - Owen Sound Attack
Interesting pick by the Blues at the recent draft. He improved a ton this year in Owen Sound, emerging as a borderline top 4 defender on a quality club. He was an anchor of their PK and really plays a safe, defensive first game. Has good size and mobility and definitely possesses the qualities that could make him a solid stay at home defender at the next level. Will return to Owen Sound next year and should see a similar role, with the chance at an increased role if Jacob Friend turns pro. Not sure I'd expect much of an increase in offensive production (maybe 20 points and hopefully his first OHL goal), but if he can really start using his size more in the defensive end and become a dominant shut down force, that would be promising for his pro future. Owen Sound will be one of the best teams in the OHL next year and they'll be relying on Bourque to take that step.

5. Filip Helt - Sarnia Sting
Not a good season for the Import. Looked largely over matched in the OHL. Shows some good speed and puck skill at times, but just didn't appear strong enough or intense enough to make much of a consistent impact. As such, he was pushed further and further down Sarnia's depth chart, eventually finding himself on the 4th line with limited ice time. His rights were released by Sarnia and he'll return to Europe next year.

*Alexei Toropchenko - Guelph Storm
 A 4th rounder of the Blues this year, Toropchenko was a pick of Guelph's in the import draft and is apparently coming over. He should see top 6 ice time in Guelph. They've got a quality young team with a ton of offensive talent. I would expect him to have a good year. He could most definitely be a 30 goal scorer, based on all the reports I've received on his play. Excited to see him in person.

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