Thursday, March 29, 2018


Foley leaves school early, signs entry-level contract; 
Upshall to return to lineup; the shift that defines today's Blues

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues have added a fourth college player to their arsenal with the signing of power forward Erik Foley to a three-year entry-level contract on Thursday.

Foley's signing comes on the heels of the Blues inking two-year entry-level deals with forwards Nolan Stevens and Austin Poganski and free agent defenseman Mitch Reinke. 

There was some jockeying back and forth whether Foley would leave after his junior season. There was some thought he'd initially leave, then had second thoughts about coming back for his senior season with a chance at being a Hobey Baker Award winner, but decided that turning pro was best.

Foley, who just finished his junior season at Providence College, was acquired in the Feb. 26 trade deadline day deal with the Winnipeg Jets, along with a 2018 first-round pick, for center Paul Stastny.

Foley, 20, will report to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout contract after undergoing a physical examination in St. Louis, and his entry level deal won't kick in until the 2018-19 season.

Foley, listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, led the Friars with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 38 regular-season games and was named to the Hockey East First All-Star team.

Foley played in 110 career games at Providence and finished with 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists). 

A Mansfield, Massachusetts native, Foley appeared in seven games with the United States at the 2016-17 World Junior Championships and helped the team capture the Gold Medal. 

Prior to his collegiate career, Foley spent a year with the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was a teammate of Reinke's with the RoughRiders in 2014-15, where Foley was named to the league's all-rookie team after 54 points (27 goals, 27 assists) in 55 games.  

Foley was originally drafted by the Jets in the third round (78th pick) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

* Upshall ready to play -- Blues left wing Scottie Upshall will mark his return to the lineup when the Blues (43-28-5), who will put a six-game winning streak on the line Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights (48-22-7).

Upshall, who sprained the MCL in his left knee March 3 at Dallas, missed the past 10 games but will replace Tage Thompson in the lineup.

"I feel good," Upshall said. "I almost feel better than I did before I was hurt. I've been working hard to get back. I've been really eager to get back in the lineup. We've got a big trip with two games. Hoping to get in one of those and help. The team's been playing great. During the time I've been getting healthy, the guys have been getting points and it's great. This time of year is all about playing your best hockey and winning games."

Upshall will join the fourth line with Oskar Sundqvist and Chris Thorburn. 

"He was ready last game," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Upshall. "We didn't want to change lines and we didn't feel that anybody deserved to come out. I think it's important that we get him in. We've got a busy stretch here and I think it's important that we use our depth right now.

"'Tommer' will come out for tomorrow's game, but I believe there's a good chance that he will get in for that Arizona game. I think it's important that we use everybody down the stretch here. But as far as looking at that game tomorrow, I don't think that 'Tommer' playing on the fourth line is really a good fit for him."

Speaking of Upshall, he got the chance to catch back up with Stevens, who he remembered from his playing days of playing for Stevens' dad, John Stevens, when the elder Stevens was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers.

Upshall was with the Flyers from 2006-08.

"It doesn't seem too long ago, but jeez, you look at the dates, it's been about 10 years since I've played in Philadelphia," Upshall said. "It's nice to see the boy's all grown up and having him here is pretty cool.

"At least I didn't play with his dad. If you're still around in the league where you're playing with some of your teammates' kids, it's probably good for you but you're reminded of how old you are and how young the guys are and how good the players are nowadays. It's good to have a great college career and we're happy to have him up here."

The 34-year-old Upshall took Stevens, 21, and Reinke, 22, after skating for the first time Wednesday out to lunch in the Clayton area.

"My dad coached him with the Flyers, so that's cool to see him again," Stevens said of Upshall. "I was really young when I last saw him. Just to be on the same ice with him is a really cool experience. 

"I was probably 11, 12 back when my dad was with the Flyers. I don't remember much from those days, but it's kind of cool to see him now."

* The near-perfect shift -- For those that are into the intricate details of the game, take a peek at the specific shift for the Blues' line of Vladimir Sobotka, Dmitrij Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev in the third period of the Blues' 3-2 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks.

When Jordan Schmaltz threw the puck along the right boards to Jaskin, who had to make the initial push in the zone and hound Sharks defenseman Paul Martin, with 6 minutes, 20 seconds remaining, the puck never left the Sharks zone again until Barbashev's pass caromed off a skater and out of the zone with 5:17 left, for a total of 1:03 of zone time.

Aside from scoring, all that line and defensemen Vince Dunn and Colton Parayko did were track the puck back six times, cycle it six times, get off five shot attempts and force two failed Sharks clearing attempts.

A goal would have made it the perfect shift, so let's call it near-perfect.

"They were a little too tired playing back to back and I think we just caught them in a bad position," said Jaskin, who led the Blues with six hits in the game and continues to apply his physicality to his play. "Keep grinding it out. I think it was great and got us going. We should do it like that every shift. ... It was good to spend some time in there. I think we just have to shoot more. We'll get more chances to score if we shoot more. It was great and we had another one after that and it felt good. When you have a shift like that, not just you, but everyone else had a lot of energy and it's way more fun to play.

"Every team's got star and individual skill. We have it too, but I think when we play like that the way we played last game, it's hard to beat us. It's the kind of play that we have to do and it's been working when we play like that." 

When Yeo analyzes the video and goes over what he sees, there isn't much the coach won't like. It created momentum, it created energy, and not just for those that came onto the ice following, but for those in attendance as well that appreciated the workmanlike effort.

In the end, what you had was Jaskin with four puck retrievals and two cycles; Sobotka with a puck retrieval and shot attempt; Barbashev with a cycle, a puck retrieval and forced failed clear; Parayko with three shot attempts and Dunn with a shot attempt and forced failed clear. 

"To talk about the goals, it's easier said than done obviously," Yeo said. "There's players all around the league, the best players in the world go out every shift and they want to score a goal, but it doesn't happen very often. There's certain things you want to accomplish in a shift. When you're looking at that shift, you're looking at the work ethic, the determination to hunt the puck back, the responsibility to work to the defensive side of things, to allow your defensemen to pinch down and keep plays alive without being a high-risk team. And then with that, what you want to do for your team, you want to generate momentum and I think that anyone that was in the building could feel the electricity and the crowd after that shift. I think that that's momentum in a nutshell right there.

"Everyone is different, but obviously the longer you're in there, the better. Sometimes you have a long shift or a decent, long shift and you're able to change guys, you're able to get five completely fresh guys on the ice playing against tired players. Sometimes you have one shift in there, they get the puck out to the neutral zone and you go back after them and you do that two or three times. So everyone is unique and everyone is different, but zone time itself is something that we're certainly looking for for."

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