Saturday, June 30, 2018

Blues get first look at Foley, like what they see

Prospect acquired from Winnipeg in Stastny trade built to 
be power forward in NHL, impressed during prospect camp

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A media throng was standing inside the Blues' locker room inside the Ice Zone this past week waiting for prospects to filter in for potential interviews.

When Erik Foley entered, he did so sans shirt, and it was sort of a message saying, 'Yeah, I'm here, and I'm ripped.' The shoulders are broad, rippling off the neck of the 21-year-old that Blues fans didn't know much about until getting a glimpse of the 6-foot, 185-pounds of him at prospect camp this past week.

Foley, who turned 21 Saturday, came to the Blues in the Feb. 26 trade that also brought with it a first-round pick in 2018 from the Winnipeg Jets for Paul Stastny, gave Blues fans a taste of that he hopes is a solid career in the Blues' organization.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues prospect Erik Foley scores a goal for Providence College last season.

Foley comes from Providence College, where he had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 38 games and had 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists) in 110 games for the Friars over three seasons.

Foley was a third-round pick by the Jets in the 2015 NHL Draft and was taken aback by the trade.

"It was definitely surprising, but the [Winnipeg] organization treated me with respect," Foley said. "That's just a part of hockey. I'm happy to be a Blue and I'm humbled to be a part of a great organization.

"I was actually taking a nap in my bed and I got a call from Winnipeg, Manitoba, I picked it up and it was (Jets GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff and [Craig] Heisinger, the assistant GM and they told me that they made a move at the deadline. Stuff happens. I thanked them, they thanked me and then I got a call from St. Louis about a minute after and they welcomed me to the organization. ... My phone started blowing up after that because I think a tweet got announced or something, but I called my mom, I called my dad and I was just kind of a little thrown off but it's still just a part of the game."

Now Foley, who played with Blues defensive prospect Jake Walman in Providence for two seasons, got a congratulatory text from Walman and is eager and excited to turn the chapter to his new life with the Blues; he signed a three-year, $2.775 million entry-level contract on March 29 and will more than likely head to San Antonio of the American Hockey League and play for the Rampage next season.

Unless he just absolutely steals the show at training camp in September.

"He's very strong," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said of Foley. "I was fortunate to watch him after the trade for three weekends in a row. He's very well-coached at Providence with Nate Leaman there. The structure of his game, I think, will turn over to the pro level. He's already been on a team that plays very defensive orientated. Lots of times, that's the biggest thing you need to teach these young kids is defense. He's got that instilled. The next level now, can he skate with the puck, can he move with the puck consistently at the level that he needs to play at the NHL. My short term getting to know him, he's a very strong man so he brings a lot of impact in his game. We're hoping that he is that waterbug that chases down pucks consistently and creates turnovers. We're really looking for guys that are really hungry to play the game and hopefully he is one of those guys.

"I see him as a third-, fourth-line guy that really brings a lot of energy to the game and is hungry on the puck and never gives up on pucks and creates turnovers. I guess Scottie Upshall would be a guy that we'd hope that he can play like because he's got that structure. He just has to get his speed to like that. That's the new wave of the fourth line guys, they have to be able to skate, they have to be able to create energy on the ice and you have to be able to trust them in those situations and at the same time, you have to score some goals."

Foley fits the mold of a power forward that displayed some strong speed and skill with the puck who doesn't hesitate to shoot it, whether it be a one-timer from the circle, slapper from distance or wrister from the slots. 

"I think I fit in pretty well here," Foley said. "I think my style of game will hopefully translate well for them. I'm going to do everything I can to show them that. If that doesn't work out, maybe take a year in the AHL or whatever it takes. I think I fit in well.

"I would probably say an offensive power forward. I like to work from the wall out. I get the puck along the wall, maybe spin out, take it to the net. I like to create offense from there, use my body and be heavy and use my shot as well. ... I'll go in front of the net, try to use my hands around the net. Good, soft touches or find a loose puck and bang it home, kind of that style of play. ... I'll throw a little bit of fancy in there once in a while, but I'm just more of a run-and-gun type of player."

Foley's season ended rather unceremoniously when he sustained a concussion against Notre Dame in a 2-1 loss in the East Regional Final, a season in which Foley felt the Friars could make a Frozen Four run. But he is back and 100 percent healthy.

"Yeah, I feel good now," Foley said. "It was a tough way to go out. You don't want to go out like that, but it was tough watching the boys play in the locker room, but when you get those types of injuries, you have to take caution and go slow with them.

"... I honestly thought we were going to make the Frozen Four. I was in the locker room actually and I heard someone score because the crowd started going crazy and then I heard Notre Dame's fight song going on so I got a little rattled there. It's a part of the game and stuff happens."

Foley came to St. Louis and be evaluated by Blues doctors before going to San Antonio at the end of the season to take in a few games; he did not play but was able to get on the ice.

After taking some time to think about the trade and change of scenery and life pointing him in a different direction, Foley holds no grudges against the Jets. As a matter of fact, he pulled for the Jets in the playoffs with friends (Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic) on the team.

"There's no hard feelings with Winnipeg," he said. "It's a part of the game. They wanted to make a playoff push and they got a really good player in Paul. No hard feelings to them. It's just a part of the game, but I'm happy that St. Louis wanted me and I'm happy to be a Blue now."

Foley is committed to the Blues and was one of the more notable skaters among prospects this week.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Prospect Erik Foley will likely play his first pro season for the Blues' AHL
affiliate in San Antonio in 2018-19.

"Good, powerful kid," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "I thought that he did a good job this week. You could tell that the tools are there. When you see him on the ice, the way he shoots the puck, the way he skates, you can see that the power is there. ... Another guy I'm anxious to see in some 5-on-5 play."

Foley, who models his game after that of San Jose's Evander Kane, checked off many, if not all, the boxes he wanted to coming in. 

"I just want to come in here and meet the staff, meet some of the guys around here, get familiar with the city. That's what I'm trying to take away, put a good first impression on the coaches and the GM's, but besides that, just kind of be a sponge and soak it all in.

"I haven't really gone over (plans) with them with that, but I just know they wanted me and it's a good sign. I'll let them do the stuff up there in the offices and I'll just play my game."

Friday, June 29, 2018

Perunovich overcame odds, took advantage as late bloomer

Defenseman helped Minnesota-Duluth to national title last season, saw 
stock rise with solid World Junior Championship in final year of draft eligibility

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Scott Perunovich wasted little time in getting acclimated with fellow Blues prospects this past week at camp, he even found a roommate he hit it off with right away.

"Meeting all these new faces. I'm rooming with Dominik Bokk, the first rounder, and it's already felt like we've been friends for years," Perunovich, a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, said. "We've gotten really close. We mess with each other a little bit. A lot of good people here. It's exciting to be here."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Second-round draft pick Scott Perunovich (right) meets Blues management
after being selected at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 23.

Bokk, a first-round pick this year, is German-born and knows a thing or two about soccer; he was obviously frustrated by Germany's shocking exit from the World Cup. But Bokk was in baseball-crazed St. Louis this week and took in his first-ever baseball game Friday night at Busch Stadium between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves with fellow Blues prospects.

Needless to say, Bokk needed some tips on the game itself.

"The first day we got here, he was pretty excited talking about soccer all the time," Perunovich said of Bokk. "We were actually watching the baseball game; he's never seen a baseball game before. He didn't know how many innings there were or strikes or balls; he didn't know anything, so I was just trying to teach him a little about that, but I think he just wants to learn more about soccer."

So who better to teach Bokk the basics of baseball than Perunovich?

"No, I think he's a lost cause right now," Perunovich joked. "I don't think he was paying attention to me when I was explaining it."

Perunovich, who had to sit out the last three days of on-ice activities at camp because of a minor ailment, can attest to not having anyone pay attention to him. The Hibbing, Mn. native famous for producing singer Bob Dylan and Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale has been tagged with the label "late bloomer." And rightfully so.

At 5-foot-9, 172 pounds, Perunovich has fought through the battles of getting himself put on the map. It finally came to fruition this past season, and if 2019 ends the way 2018 did for Perunovich, the defenseman will have no objections.

Perunovich was in his third and final year of draft eligibility and will play his junior season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth; he will be going for a repeat as national champion after Perunovich and the Bulldogs won their second national title.

"We barely got into the tournament," Perunovich said. "It was supposed to be a rebuilding year and we had a young d-core. Our oldest person was a sophomore. To be able to pull that off when no one thought you would is pretty special."

What was also pretty special was Perunovich finally hearing his name called. After being bypassed the past two years, Perunovich was down to his last life. Either get drafted in Dallas or try and land with a team moving forward as a free agent. But notoriety with the Bulldogs and a rise in play for the United States at the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

"Years of relief finally to know hard work pays off and I just had a goal and I was able to achieve it," Perunovich said. "That was one of the best feelings I've ever had."

It was the persistent prodding of Blues amateur scouts J Niemiec and Keith Tkachuk, who has had two sons (Matthew as the sixth pick in 2016 and Brady as the fourth pick) chosen in the first round, that pushed Blues brass towards Perunovich despite his size.

"He's a late bloomer," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said of Perunovich. "Yeah, you can put him in that category. What caught my eye were our two area scouts, Keith Tkachuk and J Niemiec were relentlessly forwarding me video on him and saying, 'You better go back to see him, you better go back.' The first person they brought up in the conference calls was to push the crossovers, scouts to go back and see him. They wore us down to the point where we just had to go back and as we went back and watched him, we fell in love with the kid. He's still got work to do, but there's something good there.

"... He's one of those guys that just hates to lose. That's probably a great quality that we haven't talked about with him. You look for that in prospects. Are they big in the big moments? Can they win it? He went into college and the interesting thing about him is he played on one of the worst USHL teams ever. It was a struggling year and he came back in and he valued the winning part and he embraced it. He immersed himself in his team and he led them to a national championship. It's a good story, and he certainly one of those kids that it's one of those little qualities that you love about him, that he hates to lose."

Perunovich, who had 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) with the Bulldogs last season and three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for USA, said it was hard at times seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but that it motivated him more to push through. He models his game after that of Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug.

"It was tough," he said. "It was definitely disappointing the first two years not getting drafted, but I think it makes it a lot more special being my last year to go to St. Louis. I had a meeting with them the first day of the draft and I had a good feeling. I liked the people I talked to there. I kind of felt like I did when I was touring UM-D, kind of the same homey feeling. I was excited to be a part of their organization.

"I think (the world juniors) helped my name get on the radar a little bit more. I don't think I was a big name, or I was growing up. I think a good start to UM-D helped me out get my name out there for world juniors and I was luckily enough to make the team, so that definitely helped me out a lot."

Perunovich was in the stands watching and listening to fellow prospects waiting for his name to be called. Some had been there for the first time, some were in a similar situation as he was. Persistence was key.

"Super anxious obviously," Perunovich said. "I felt like names were going off the board pretty fast here, too. I was lucky enough to go decently in the (second) round though. Definitely a lot of excitement there.

"My family has always been super supportive. My dad [Jim's] been there every step of the way. My agency was very good. It's been there. They talked me down a little bit, they kept me a little off the edge there, so yeah, I probably had the best supporting cast I could have had."

Perunovich said there was never a doubt whether it was all worth it in the end, even when it seemed like there would be no favorable end.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "I think that just motivated me more. I knew I was ranked pretty low in a lot of things, but you know, things are different in the hockey world. They know a little bit more, so I knew if I give all I had, it would be recognized. Thankfully it did by these guys."
(USA Hockey photo)
Scott Perunovich made an impact for Team USA
last winter at the World Junior Championship. 

Perunovich will spend his summer working out and preparing for college hockey again in Minnesota but may also have to answer to McHale, whose son dates Perunovich's sister Lisa. 

Why? Because when Perunovich was asked who's the most famous person to come from Hibbing, he wanted to chose his words carefully but couldn't even sugarcoat them when he picked Dylan.

"Oh God, I know Kevin McHale personally, so hopefully, he doesn't watch this," Perunovich said. "I think so, I think [Dylan] might have him topped my a little bit."

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bokk understands he needs work to make it to NHL

2018 first-round pick was targeted by Blues since 
seeing him play in 2016, will play in Sweden in 2018-19

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Fearing that someone would step up and grab him wright before picking at No. 29 at the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blues felt the need to move up and grab someone high on their list of players that they felt was one of the best available.

The Blues, picked Dominik Bokk with the 25th pick after moving up four spots and sacrificing a third-round pick last week to take the German-born right wing.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk dons
his new jersey after being selected in Dallas.

And it was a player the Blues had high on their list of players that suited what they were looking for, and someone that they had their eye on for some time.

"I think our first viewing on him was when he played the U-17's actually in Dallas believe it or not (at the Five Nations Tournament). Our scouts saw him there and have been on him and identified him," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said of Bokk. "We've had a long history with him. And we were on him early. We got to watch him for a full year. He had some moments where he was up and down in the season and he went from the elite league obviously down to the lower league of the juniors and he really took off at the end of the season.

"We had a couple guys pegged that we thought might drop. When he started coming our way, we were nervous that somebody else was going to get him, and we were right in our thought process. I believe that if we had waited to get him where we were going to pick at 29, he wouldn't be there. We had to be aggressive on him and we had a good strategy mapped out before and he was the one guy that slipped and we were able to get him."

But Bokk's admission, the 18-year-old will not be in a Blues uniform anytime soon. Bokk, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, will return to Sweden and play for the Växjö Lakers HC in 2018-19 after spending last season with the Lakers.

And the ability to speak four languages will benefit Bokk, who speaks German, Swedish, English and Russian (his parents are Russian).

"I need to get stronger, body-wise," Bokk said. "Strong on the puck. And my shooting accuracy.

"I need some time. I need to get stronger. Maybe two to three years something like that."

Bokk, born in Schweinfurt, Germany, majority of the 2017-18 season with the Lakers' J20 team in the SuperElit League and had 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 35 regular-season games before collecting 11 points (five goals, six assists) in eight playoff games. 

"He's a kid in a sense that's raw in his body type,  but the skills and instincts are there," Armstrong said of Bokk. "He's kind of like the modern, new-age NHL player of speed. He can think at high speeds.

"They're like your children; there's a lot of patience that you have to have. Sometimes they have situations where they accelerate their growth as players and other times they get there with teams where it doesn't happen. You have to have some patience."

It is why Bokk said he tries to model his game of Artemi Panarin of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I'm a skilled forward," Bokk said. "I like to score goals. I like to make nice plays. And I'm a good skater."

Bokk has spent the week here in St. Louis at the Blues' developmental camp, and has learned the ropes of what professional life and living is like in the NHL. It's a good benefit to learn the ropes of waking up at 5 a.m. and getting into a routine of what an NHL player should be doing, how to eat, proper nutrition, daily habits, sleep patterns and many more aspects. 

"My main goal is trying to compete and go hard in every practice and get better," Bokk said. "... It's great. I wasn't on the ice for two months, so it's a great feeling to be back especially here."

Blues being careful with top prospect Thomas

2017 first-round pick healing from sprained ankle sustained in OHL title 
series; team wants center healthy, ready to crack opening night roster

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Robert Thomas has been in shorts and flip flops this week while his fellow Blues prospects compete on ice during prospect camp.

It's not the look Blues fans in attendance at the St. Louis Outlet Mall's Ice Zone were hoping for, or expecting to see. 

But that's OK with the Blues and Thomas, who is sitting out the on-ice activities but performing all tasks off the ice.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas, skating in the prospect camp
last summer, is sitting out this summer resting an ankle injury.

Thomas, the 20th pick in the 2017 NHL draft, sustained an ankle injury during the Ontario Hockey League championship series against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and was able to play through it, helping the Bulldogs to the OHL title before playing through it in four games during the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup.

But for someone with as much hype as Thomas, it's OK that the Blues are playing the cautious approach with him, especially when their plans include him in St. Louis when the 2018-19 NHL season opens.

"We're going to be very careful with him," Blue director of player development Tim Taylor said of Thomas. "Obviously he's one of our top prospects and at the end of the day, we want him ready to play in September and October for the St. Louis Blues."

Thomas, a center, is in a class of prospects the Blues have ranked at the top of their board, along with center Tage Thompson (2016 first round), right wing Jordan Kyrou (2016 second round) and right wing Klim Kostin (2017 first round).

"Obviously you want to be on the ice, but it's good to take it slow," Thomas said. "Obviously, it's still the end of June now, and you've just got to be ready for main camp."

Thomas represented Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship before being traded from the London Knights to the Bulldogs before the Bulldogs won the OHL championship and played 81 games in all competitions, including seven for Canada, 49 regular-season games with the Knights and Bulldogs, 21 more with the Bulldogs in the OHL playoffs and four more competing with the Bulldogs in the Memorial Cup, where the Bulldogs finished third.

Thomas finished the OHL playoffs with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 21 games, winning the Wayne Gretzky '99' Award as OHL playoff MVP before getting two goals and one assist in four games during the Memorial Cup.

"It was definitely a long, eventful year, with the World Juniors, and then with the trade and the OHL championship," Thomas said. "So it was a lot of fun and it was a great experience for me. I got to experience a lot of things I hadn't before and learn from that. So it was a lot of fun this year."

Thomas, who had 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 49 regular-season games, including 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) in 22 games with the Bulldogs, has a completely different mindset from a year ago when he was part of his first developmental camp.

"Yeah, I think for me, I've got to look at it as I still got a lot of work to do," Thomas said. "I've still got to have a great summer and be as prepared as I can coming into camp. Nothing's given obviously. So I've got to be ready to compete for a spot in camp and have a good camp."

The Blues are cautious when attempting to downplay their prospects and expectations, and Taylor tried that card, too, but it didn't go quite the way he intended, throwing out a few exemplary names when making comparisons for Thomas.

"No comparison to Sidney Crosby in the aspect on the ice, but he's got that kind of body structure as Sidney Crosby," Taylor said of Thomas. "Really heavy downloaded on the bottom side, real big legs and he plays exactly that with his style of play. A lot of skating, a lot of holding onto the puck and puck positioning. He's built like a hockey player right now. I wouldn't say a guy who's played 10 years in the league, but one of those young guys, the new age of hockey players where really legs are real strong and the torsos are real strong.

"... Not to throw names out there, but we believe he's like a Jonathan Toews for our team, a Patrice Bergeron, a guy that can go out and do everything. Right now, we don't want to put that pressure on him. We just want him to be the player that he is. But I think that we believe he has those leadership qualities. His structure on the ice is impeccable. His two-way game, two-way faceoffs were really good this year. We have high expectations for him and he has them for himself, too."
(file photo)
Blues prospect Robert Thomas played for Canada at the
2018 World Junior Championship in January.

Crosby, Toews, Bergeron ... no pressure, kid.

But Thomas, always with a healthy smile on his face, appears ready to tackle the challenges of life in the NHL, and the successes that came with the 2017-18 season had a lot to do with this preparation, along with getting the experience with the Blues last camp and in preseason.

"I think offensively, I became more offensive and worked on a couple of things in my game," Thomas said. "I think defensively I just became more sound. I think I'm more of a complete player now for sure.

"... I got my first taste for sure. You sort of see what it's all about, see how different it is from junior. So for me, I worked a lot throughout the year on my strength. I feel like I came a long way, and still got a ways to go."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Soshnikov signs one-year, one-way contract

Russian wing gets $800,000, was scheduled to be restricted free agent

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues took care of one of their restricted free agents on Sunday, signing wing Nikita Soshnikov to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800,000.

Soshnikov, 24, was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 15 for a 2019 fourth-round pick; he had a goal and an assist in 12 games with St. Louis after playing three games with the Maple Leafs but spent much of the season recovering from a shoulder injury.
Nikita Soshnikov

There were reports that Soshnikov was considering returning to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League earlier in the spring; he played in four games for Russia at the World Championships and had three assists.

Soshnikov signed as a free agent with the Maple Leafs on March 20, 2015 and initially was thought of highly in Toronto's system, but injuries and the rise of the Maple Leafs' young stars made Soshnikov expendible in the end.

Soshnikov will likely come into training camp and compete for a role in the bottom six with flexibility to move up in case of injuries. He displayed flashes of speed and physicality when given the chance to play before missing seven games with a shoulder ailment.

Overall, the Nizhny Tagil, Russia, native has played in 82 career NHL regular season games between Toronto and St. Louis, accumulating 16 points (eight goals, eight assists).

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Blues leave 2018 NHL Draft with no trades, five more picks

Reports that St. Louis not on Tavares' list of teams 
center will speak with; other deals never came to fruition

It turned out to be a quiet weekend as far as trades were concerned for the Blues, who had five picks on Saturday at the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong used the weekend to speak with fellow GM's, perhaps setting the parameters of something in the near future or down the line, or perhaps the Blues will focus on free agency a little more if the trade front doesn't work out the way they had hoped.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues GM Doug Armstrong came away from the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas
without making any moves.

There are multiple reports that the Blues are not among the teams that pending free agent center John Tavares will speak with during the free agency period beginning Sunday that allows other teams to speak to pending UFA's, and so it appears the Blues will have to look elsewhere for immediate help.

With trade possibilities including Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, who TSN's Bob McKenzie reported was being courted by the Blues and Montreal among others, Carolina's Jeff Skinner is also in play and would be a fit for the Blues' scoring needs.

So with Blues fans, obviously the question is how quickly will something happen, but the better question is when will something happen?

But as Armstrong pointed out when reached on Thursday, "I think that question can be answered with more clarity on Aug. 1 than July 1 because I just don't know what the market's going to bear at the draft and from the talking period Sunday through the middle of July."

Other options via free agency could include James Neal and former Blue David Perron of Vegas, former Blues center Paul Stastny, Toronto forwards James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, Oakville native Pat Maroon and perhaps New Jersey Devils teammate Michael Grabner, among others. Boston's Riley Nash is an intriguing player also after coming off a 41-point season making only $900,000.

As for their draft choices, the Blues mixed it up with three forwards, two defenseman and a goalie in the fourth round among their six picks, including right wing Dominik Bokk, who they picked with the 25th pick in the first round after trading up four spots with the Toronto Maple Leafs that included giving up their third-round pick Saturday.

"This one was a tough one," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said. "There was a lot of strategy on our part trying to get the most value out of the draft. This one was a little more complex. ... We're happy with our selections and we wrapped it up today."

The Blues went with 5-foot-9, 172-pound defenseman Scott Perunovich of NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth with their second-round pick and 45th overall.

Perunovich, who turns 20 on August 18, had 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 42 regular-season games his freshman season, is a native of Hibbing, Minn. and part of his third draft after not being picked the past two years; he was called a "late-bloomer" and a puck-moving defenseman on the NHL Network by analysts. 

Perunovich was the NCAA rookie of the year award winner who really got noticed at the World Junior Championship for Team USA, where he had a goal and two assists in seven games.

An interesting tidbit is that Perunovich's uncle, Doug Terrell, was drafted with the 66th pick by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1987 NHL Draft.

Perunovich's bio:

Without a third-round pick, the Blues had to wait until the fourth round, where they selected goalie Joel Hofer, who was a backup last season with Western Hockey League champion Swift Current.

Hofer, 17, played in 19 games with the Broncos and was 8-3-1-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

At 6-3, 160, the Winnipeg native Hofer was rated as the No. 7 North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting.

Hofer's bio:

In the fifth round, the Blues went with 5-8, 170-pound Western Michigan left wing Hugh McGing, a Chicago native who finished his sophomore season playing for former Blues coach Andy Murray's Broncos.

McGing, 19, played in 36 games this past season and was named the Rob Hodge co-MVP, finishing with 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists).

McGing has 51 points (23 goals, 28 assists) in 60 games playing for Cedar Rapids of the United States Hockey League.

McGing's bio:

With their sixth-round pick, the Blues dipped into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and selected 6-1, 175-pound right wing Mattias Laferriere of Montreal. 

Laferriere, who turns 18 on Wednesday, had 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists) in 67 games for Cape Breton, his second season there.

Laferriere's bio:

And with their final pick if the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blues grabbed Tyler Tucker, a 6-1, 203-pound defenseman out of Longlac, Ontario, in the seventh round with pick No. 200.

Tucker, who turned 18 on March 1, skated with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League this past season and recorded 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 59 games, his second season with the Colts.

Tucker's bio:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Blues trade up to select German-born right wing Bokk

Trade with Maple Leafs had St. Louis move up from No. 29 to 25, 
yield this year's third-round pick (No. 76); Tkachuk taken by Senators

The Blues were expected to be busy as the 2018 NHL Draft unfoled through perhaps player movement or even pick movement.

There was some talk of moving perhaps into the top five but it would take a pretty good haul of picks to do so.

The Blues moved up from No. 29 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs to No. 25 and giving up their third-round pick (No. 76) in this year's draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas to pick German-born right wing Dominik Bokk of Vaxjo Jr. of the Swedish Jr. League.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
First-round pick Dominik Bokk poses for a photo after donning the Blues
jersey for the first time after being drafted on Friday in Dallas. 

Moving up to grab a specific target is always a sign of good nature for the player, and Bokk feels no differently here.

"I had a meeting with them yesterday," Bokk said of the Blues. "They told me they really want to say my name (at the draft podium). They also told that they might trade up to draft me, so I already knew about this yesterday. It's a great feeling and I'm so happy.

"I didn't know going into the day that I was going to be a Blue, but I had a good feeling when they picked."

Bokk, listed at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, finished with 14 goals and 27 assists in 35 games with Vaxjo Jr. last season. 

Among the picks believed to be there for the Blues included Bokk and centers Ryan McLeod of Mississauga and Akil Thomas of Niagara. Center Joseph Veleno, who was projected by Central Scouting as the eighth-ranked North American skater, was surprisingly also on the board for the Blues, who chose to go with Bokk.

More on Bokk: 

The Blues were originally supposed to have the 14th pick but that went to the Philadelphia Flyers to complete the trade for center Brayden Schenn at last year's draft.

The 29th pick originally was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in a trade deadline deal for center Paul Stastny.

As far as local ties, St. Louisan Brady Tkachuk, brother of Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk (the sixth pick in 2016) and son of former Blue Keith Tkachuk, was picked by the Ottawa Senators with the fourth pick.

Tkachuk had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games at Boston University and had three goals and nine points in seven games for USA at the World Junior Championship.

"It’s a huge honor," said Brady Tkachuk, a AAA Blues alumni. "St. Louis has now become a hockey hot spot because of the people that have stayed and created that organization, guys like Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Jeff Brown and my dad. There’s others that I’m not naming. There’s people that help out so much."

Tkachuk becomes teammates with former AAA Blue and another St. Louisan Logan Brown, son of Jeff Brown who was selected by the Senators with the 11th pick in 2016.

"You’re going to see a lot more kids from St. Louis coming up and it’s so exciting to see because the market in St. Louis, everybody loves their hockey there," Tkachuk said. "The Blues are doing well and there’s going to be a lot more kids coming up."

Concerning player movement via trades, the only deal consummated was Colorado acquiring goalie Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik from Washington for a second-round pick (No. 47) on Saturday. 

There has been lots of smoke regarding major names potentially moving and they still could, but on Friday, it was a smokeless night as far as transactions were concerned.

Barring any other deals, the Blues will have picks in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds on Saturday, which begins at 10 a.m. (CT).  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Blues 2018-19 season schedule

Seven-game homestand early in season, stretch of 
22 of 30 road games among notable stretches of games

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL released its full regular-season schedule on Thursday, and for the Blues, there are a lot of similarities to the schedule fans are quite used to.

The Blues open the season with a three-game homestand, beginning Oct. 4 against the Winnipeg Jets and play their first road game in Chicago against the Blackhawks on Oct. 13. Speaking of the Blackhawks, the Blues play the Blackhawks in four of their first 16 games.

The Blues are top-heavy on home games in the first half of the season and play eight home games in November and December but do play a stretch of 22 of 30 road games from Jan. 12-March 17.

There are two sets of back-to-back games against the Nashville Predators (Nov. 21-23 and Feb. 9-10), a New Year's Eve home game against the New York Rangers and the long-awaited return of former Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and T.J. Oshie visit St. Louis on Jan. 3.

There's a season-long seven-game homestand Oct. 25-Nov. 11, six afternoon weekend home games this season and the Blues finish the regular season at home on April 6 against the Vancouver Canucks.

Here is the Blues' schedule, including seven preseason games, in full:

18 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
19 -- vs. Minnesota at Des Moines, Iowa, 7 p.m.
21 -- COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Columbus, 2 p.m.
25 -- WASHINGTON, 7 p.m.
28 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
30 -- at Washington, 2 p.m.

4 -- WINNIPEG, 7 p.m.
6 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
11 -- CALGARY, 7 p.m.
13 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
14 -- ANAHEIM, 6 p.m.
17 -- at Montreal, 6 p.m.
20 -- at Toronto, 6 p.m.
22 -- at Winnipeg, 7 p.m.
25 -- COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
27 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.

1 -- VEGAS, 7 p.m.
3 -- MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
6 -- CAROLINA, 7 p.m.
9 -- SAN JOSE, 7 p.m.
11 -- MINNESOTA, 2 p.m.
14 -- at Chicago, 7 p.m.
16 -- at Vegas, 9 p.m.
17 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
19 -- LOS ANGELES, 7 p.m.
21 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
23 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
24 -- WINNIPEG, 6 p.m.
28 -- at Detroit, 6 p.m.
30 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m. 

1 -- at Arizona, 7 p.m.
5 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
7 -- at Winnipeg, 7 p.m.
9 -- VANCOUVER, 2 p.m.
11 -- FLORIDA, 7 p.m.
14 -- COLORADO, 7 p.m.
16 -- CALGARY, 2 p.m.
18 -- at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
20 -- at Vancouver, 9 p.m.
22 -- at Calgary, 3 p.m.
27 -- BUFFALO, 7 p.m.
29 -- PITTSBURGH, 7 p.m.
31 -- N.Y. RANGERS, 6 p.m.

3 -- WASHINGTON, 7 p.m.
5 -- N.Y. ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
7 -- at Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
8 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
10 -- MONTREAL, 7 p.m.
12 -- at Dallas, 8 p.m.
14 -- at Washington, 6 p.m.
15 -- at N.Y. Islanders, 6 p.m.
17 -- at Boston, 6 p.m.
19 -- OTTAWA, 6 p.m.
21 -- at Los Angeles, 3 p.m.
23 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.

2 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
5 -- at Florida, 6 p.m.
7 -- at Tampa Bay, 6:30 p.m.
9 -- NASHVILLE, 1 p.m.
10 -- at Nashville, 11:30 a.m.
12 -- NEW JERSEY, 7 p.m.
14 -- at Arizona, 8 p.m.
16 -- at Colorado, 2 p.m.
17 -- at Minnesota, 2 p.m.
19 -- TORONTO, 7 p.m.
21 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
23 -- BOSTON, 3 p.m.
24 -- at Minnesota, 6 p.m.
26 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.

1 -- at Carolina, 6:30 p.m.
2 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.
7 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
9 -- at San Jose, 3 p.m.
12 -- ARIZONA, 7 p.m.
14 -- at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m.
16 -- at Pittsburgh, noon
17 -- at Buffalo, 4 p.m.
19 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
21 -- DETROIT, 7 p.m.
23 -- TAMPA BAY, 7 p.m.
25 -- VEGAS, 7 p.m.
29 -- at N.Y. Rangers, 6 p.m.
30 -- at New Jersey, 6 p.m.

1 -- COLORADO, 7 p.m.
3 -- at Chicago, 7 p.m.
4 -- PHILADELPHIA, 7 p.m.
6 -- VANCOUVER, 3 p.m.

Blues are open for business as draft looms Friday

Armstrong laying caution to the wind as far as immediate activity, 
said Blues will implement all avenues to make necessary additions

ST. LOUIS -- As the 2018 NHL Draft is set to get underway Friday through Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, 31 teams will begin the process of putting in place their initial plans for the upcoming season.

As far as the Blues are concerned, it's all systems go, whether it's using all seven of their picks, including the 29th pick of the first round (acquired from Winnipeg in the Paul Stastny trade), or getting involved in pulling the trigger on a trade(s) as they did last season in acquiring Brayden Schenn and Klim Kostin while dealing away Ryan Reaves and Jori Lehtera.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong

The Blues could go anywhere from picking 29th or perhaps using that pick as a trade chip to acquire an impact center/winger or even packaging the pick with other current picks/future picks to move up in the draft.

"I don't think you go into the draft looking to fill needs because it's an 18-year-old draft and you're always looking for the best available player," Armstrong said via phone on Thursday afternoon. "Unless you're probably picking in the top two or three and there's a centerman or a defenseman that can help your team immediately, your roster's going to change a lot from today to where the guy that we're going to draft is going to enter the league or make an impact in 3-5 years."

As far as the potential prized free agent goes, New York Islanders center and captain John Tavares, the Blues will most certainly be all-in on a potential franchise impact player is concerned. Armstrong didn't want to comment on the specific player for fear of tampering, but he did say the Blues are in a good spot from a cap standpoint should they delve into the free agent market. But should Tavares hit July 1, and teams can begin talking to potential UFA's beginning Sunday, the Blues will definitely be all-in on the player.

"I don't want to use John's name specifically for tampering rules, but whether it's a centerman, a winger or defenseman, goalie, when there's premier players out there, we're incumbent to talk to them and find out the level of interest they may have on our team," Armstrong said. "We have the cap space, so we're situated correctly if we do decide to get into the free agent market."

Free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk is another player mentioned as a possible destination for St. Louis after playing the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia. 

It's been rumored that the Blues have reached out to Kovalchuk's camp but to what extent those conversations went is not known.

"We're always looking to talk to unrestricted free agents that we think can help us," Armstrong said. "It's different than a restricted player or making a trade where the player follows his contract now. As an unrestricted free agent, the team's desire has to meet the player's desire to be on that team. You just have to go through the process."

There's been lots of chatter outside the lines, but Armstrong said there hasn't been as much talk as the smoke from the media indicates.

Names thrown out in the loop include Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres, Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers, among others. 

"Quite honestly, I haven't followed much of the media lately, so I'm talking to the managers and there doesn't seem to be as much conversation as there have been in past drafts," he said. "That could change, but it's actually been pretty quiet this week."

Armstrong feels the Blues are set in goal with Jake Allen, who is under contract for three more seasons at a $4.35 million cap hit, and have spoken with Carter Hutton, who can become a UFA July 1, about the possibility of coming back but are open to understanding that he can very well leave; Armstrong likes the Blues' defensive corps but acknowledges that up front is where improvements need to be made.

"I think when you look at our group, our goaltending is set with Jake. We have to find a partner for him," Armstrong said. "We have two options in that area. We've talked to Carter Hutton. If he hits the market, we can either find a veteran No. 2 or we can go with a really good guy that can compete with [Ville] Husso and have those guys as our 2-3 in sharing duty. We're in an interesting position because we really like where Husso is and what he's done and knowing he's on the doorstep. It puts us in a good spot with a future goalie. 

"On defense, we have all of our seven players that ended last season under contract and we will get [Jordan] Schmaltz under contract at some point, so there's not a lot of necessity to focus in on that area. I would say up front is an area where we have the ability to move some of the guys we've used on the wing back into the middle and find wingers or look at centermen. You always have to have an eye looking to the outside to improve your team, but the reality is on trades or via free agency, teams have options on trades and players have options via unrestricted free agency, so you have to be prepared to go with the group you have and if we go that direction, I'm excited obviously. It creates such an opportunity for probably multiple players like Kostin, [Jordan] Kyrou, [Robert] Thomas, [Tage] Thompson, and [Sammy] Blais."

When it comes to how many of these young prospects can be relied upon to make impacts in the NHL this season and how many players need to be brought in from the outside can't necessarily be answered immediately.

"I think that question can be answered with more clarity on Aug. 1 than July 1 because I just don't know what the market's going to bear at the draft and from the talking period Sunday through the middle of July," Armstrong said.

As far as the first round goes Friday, it wouldn't be a surprise of the Blues used multiple picks to try and move up. One intriguing possibility is to perhaps move up to as high as the No. 4 pick with the Ottawa Senators and getting the opportunity to grab hometown kid Brady Tkachuk. That however can change should the Montreal Canadiens take Tkachuk at No. 3 and makes such a trade option a risk but one worth monitoring as an option. 

The Blues have a number of injured players on the mend this summer, from Vladimir Tarasenko (dislocated shoulder), Jaden Schwartz (shoulder), Jay Bouwmeester (hip), Carl Gunnarsson (torn ACL) and Robby Fabbri (torn ACL) are all on target for training camp.

"I talked to our medical staff last week, and everybody's doing well, healing and scheduled to be ready for camp," Armstrong said. "They're all performing well, getting clearances from doctors and training to be prepared for camp."

Friday, June 15, 2018

Blues release 2018-19 preseason schedule

Games against Stars, Wild, Blue Jackets and defending 
Stanley Cup champion Capitals highlight seven-game slate

ST. LOUIS -- Many NHL teams have been slowly releasing their preseason schedules in the past few days, and the Blues disclosed theirs on Friday.

The regular-season schedule is slated to be unveiled on Thursday at 4 p.m. (CT), but the Blues will play a seven-game preseason schedule beginning Sept. 18 at Dallas.

They will play home-and-home games against the Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals along with a neutral site game on Sept. 19 in Des Moines, Iowa against the Minnesota Wild, the home of the Wild's American Hockey League team, the Iowa Wild.

The Blues will play three games at newly-named Enterprise Center, Sept. 21 against the Blue Jackets, Sept. 25 against the Capitals and Sept. 28 against the Stars. All home game times are set for 7 p.m.

The final preseason date against the Capitals is set for a 5 p.m. puck drop but that time is subject to change.

Regular-season home openers for all 31 teams will be announced Wednesday at noon (CT).

18 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
19 -- vs. Minnesota at Des Moines, Iowa, 7 p.m.
21 -- COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Columbus, 2 p.m.
25 -- WASHINGTON, 7 p.m.
28 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
30 -- at Washington, 5 p.m.