Friday, August 31, 2018

Berglund will miss St. Louis, excited for new opportunity with Sabres

Former No. 1 pick in 2006 spent 10 seasons with Blues 
before being traded to Buffalo in package that netted Ryan O'Reilly 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Patrik Berglund had to wait until Monday morning to find out his hockey life had changed for the first time since 2006.

When the Blues announced the trade that sent Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft for center Ryan O'Reilly, it was roughly 8 p.m. St. Louis time on Sunday, July 1. Berglund was home in Sweden at the time, where it was 2 a.m.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund (21) celebrates a goal with Jaden
Schwartz in the 2016 Western Conference Final
against San Jose.

"I couldn't prepare myself because obviously when I got the phone calls and all the text messages from friends and family and everything from over here, I was obviously sleeping," Berglund said Friday after his last informal skate with former Blues teammates before jetting off to Buffalo on Saturday. "I woke up to it the next morning and I realized what happened."

And just like that, Berglund's 10-year career with the Blues was done. Instead of planning a summer of training in preparation for an 11th season in St. Louis, the 30-year-old Berglund is about to embark on a new journey, one in which will take him to New York and begin a new chapter in his life, one that involves trying to get the Sabres back on proper footing after a number of lean years of futility.

Getting that phone call though, one he thought could happen, was one he definitely prepared for.

"I was back home obviously, but it was tough," Berglund said. "But in the back of my head, I knew they were going to do something this year that would be bigger than normal and I could definitely be involved in that too. I've been here a long time and maybe they needed change. It didn't take me too long to accept it and move on and I started right away to get excited about a new adventure and a new opportunity."

Missing the playoffs last season for the first time in seven seasons, Berglund felt change was coming in St. Louis.

"Yeah, definitely. I had a feeling," Berglund said. "Then Doug [Armstrong] made some moves and here we are. There's nothing more I can say to it other than I've been preparing myself well this summer for this upcoming season. I'm excited I'm not injured again throughout a camp and throughout a summer. I'm excited to walk into camp like everyone else and you prepare yourself for a good season."

Berglund had 322 points (158 goals, 164 assists) in 694 regular-season games, and his 694 games rank sixth in franchise history behind Bernie Federko (927), Barret Jackman (803), Brian Sutter (779), Brett Hull (744) and David Backes (727). Of course the 30-year-old Berglund would have liked to finish his career with the franchise that drafted him with the 25th pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, but it's a risk one takes when venturing into the world of professional sports, and not everybody gets to experience it.

"Definitely that's something everybody dreams of if you like to play," said Berglund, who had 17 goals and nine assists in 57 games last season after missing the first 25 games rehabbing an injured shoulder sustained in summer training. "Of course, I wanted to finish out the full contract and be closer to 1,000 games here obviously, but this is part of the business. You get sad when you see your friends get traded and all that. It's the same feeling when you do too, but at the same time, you know this business. I still have a lot of hockey left to play in my career, so I'm excited about the new challenge."

Now Berglund, along with Sobotka, Thompson and goalie Carter Hutton, who signed with the Sabres as a free agent on July 1, will try to help the Sabres out of the NHL basement after finishing with 62 points (25-45-12) last season.

A major culture change was necessary and it all began with drafting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick at the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22.

"A big change. I think they tried to find some new identities to the team and added them, a lot of pieces," Berglund said of Buffalo. "It's seven pieces or something like that, and their young players are super-talented and good. [Jack] Eichel, [Sam] Reinhart, now Rasmus Dahlin, first overall pick and [Rasmus] Ristolainen too. I feel like from my part now is come in and help these guys and I still have to play my game and I want to still develop my game, if you know what I mean, and help them along the way to become a better team. 

"You get the guys from the Blues in there and Jeff Skinner. I think overall the Buffalo Sabres organization is probably really excited about this upcoming year. I am, I think all are as players too. Everybody as players are excited to get together now and to get to know each other and to start building for the future."

Perhaps Berglund can help mentor Dahlin, a fellow Swede who Berglund said has all the tools of being an NHL star.

"I'll help him as much as he wants and help him along the way to understand everything," Berglund said. "I think especially when the season starts, help him how to kind of take care of himself, a lot of travels and all that, find a way. I don't think he's played this many games, same way when I came in. It's definitely going to be a big change and if I can help him to realize that a little bit that it is a big change. He can probably calm down and feel more comfortable.

"I've seen the highlights. I think his game can definitely translate to the NHL and it already has. He's such a good skater, such a skilled guy. What I've seen too is that he's very smart. He won't get into those positions where he can be hit really hard, get injured that way. I think he's just going to do fine right off the bat."

Berglund already sounds like a player who is looking forward to a new challenge, and it started immediately. He felt good about helping the Blues franchise turn around from its last-place finish in 2005-06, to his rookie season of 2008-09 when they went 41-31-10 and were a playoff team seven of his 10 seasons.

"I think change can be good," he said. "That's why I'm excited about this instead of pouting about it or whatever. But I am excited about it. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund moves on to Buffalo after spending 10 seasons with the 
Blues. His 694 regular season games played is sixth in franchise history.

"When I came in, the Blues had struggles for a long time, but I've been part of some very good years here. The only thing that I would want is the Stanley Cup here. We gave it a couple good runs, but like it is in business, it's time to move on and go to a new chapter."

But there will be obviously lots to miss about St. Louis for the Vasteras, Sweden native, and those will be the toughest to overcome.

"Obviously a lot of teammates," Berglund said. "I feel like St. Louis as a city now is a little bit of my home, so I'm going to miss the city a lot and all the places you always go to now. You get into so many routines now that that's going to be the hardest part to go to Buffalo and find those new routines that you have no idea about yet. That's going to be the hardest thing, from finding good places to eat and all that, but I guess that comes with timing."

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Involved in all the trade chatter now come and gone, Parayko focused as ever entering fourth NHL season

He trained to specific needs in off-season after being hot topic over
summer; Blues maintained promising defenseman wasn't available

ST. LOUIS -- Being from a relatively smaller town on the outskirts of Edmonton apparently was enough for Blues defenseman Colton Parayko to be blocked out of all the off-season hockey talk that included his name at every turn.

It also helps that the 25-year-old Parayko doesn't partake in the majority of social media options, including Twitter and Facebook.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Colton Parayko, the subject of trade talk throughout the summer, tees up a
shot last season in Chicago against the Blackhawks. 

St. Albert, Alberta is a mere 20-minute ride to the northwest of Edmonton, so Parayko wasn't far-removed from the hot stove of hockey talk of Oil Country, where it's catastrophic if there's not some shape or form of hockey talk going on North of the border. And it could be read, or heard, that Parayko's name was mentioned in just about every trade rumor from St. Louis to the North Pole and back.

A hot commodity for sure, Parayko is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds with all the potential to be a top-end, right-handed shooting defenseman that can pulverize a puck through a brick wall, glide with it out of his zone as if he were skating through a phone booth with contract-friendly terms (four years remaining of five years at $27.5 million that carries a $5.5 million cap hit). Opposing general manager's would be crazy not to inquire if he were available for the right price.

But as the start of training camp looms in two weeks, Parayko is still a Blue, as if there was ever a doubt, and a very important one moving forward in a season filled with promise. As Parayko tells it, he's been putting in the kind of work that makes this, his fourth season, a very important one for him.

"Yeah, summer's been good so far," Parayko said. "I had the opportunity to go overseas again for the World Championships (in May) and play some good hockey over there and obviously play with some guys from around the league. Came back to St. Louis for a couple weeks, did some training here and got my training organized for the summer. Then I went home for about a month and a half to do training. And now I've been here for a month and just trying to skate, work out and get ready and put the final touches on my training for the summer and make sure that I'm ready to go. I feel really good. This is probably the season I'm most looking forward to coming into it."

The season ended quicker than usual for the Blues last spring, missing out on the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, and Parayko was given the opportunity to play for Canada at the World Championship. It wasn't long after when the rumor mill began to churn out his name. It picked up at a rapid pace, and naturally, at the draft in Dallas in late June. Parayko was linked to seemingly everyone, notably Edmonton and Toronto.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, not by admission, likely fielded several calls regarding his gentle giant d-man. But when asked before the draft of his plans, Armstrong let out a subtle hint that it wasn't happening.

"There's not a lot of necessity to focus in on that area," Armstrong said.

In other words, the defensive unit was staying put, and as camp is on the horizon, it is.

As for Parayko, with all the times his name was typed in a blog, in a story, a podcast, a hockey show on radio or television. Parayko had to have heard it at some point, right?

"I don't have social media like Twitter and all that, so I didn't really know," Parayko said. "The only time I really did know was when one of my agents let me know there was talk or whatever, but other than that, I just tried not to make much of it. I've just got to focus on progressing and being a better player that can come into camp and be better and be useful and be a positive asset to the team this year. I think that that's what is going to be exciting for this year, is everyone comes in and we all get to start from Game 1 and have a good season."

Even though he's staying put, there has to be something to be said that Parayko was such a wanted commodity, and it had to be somewhat flattering.

"It's different," Parayko said. "It's the first year I've ever been through something like that, I guess. But it's one of those things where you've got to understand that it's definitely part of the game. Different teams are needing different things. I've seen a few of my teammates just over the three years that have been unbelievable players have got traded or have left the team for free agency and stuff like that. When you look at it like that, you realize that it's a business and all the teams are trying to get the best hand that they can get, put the best team on the ice every single night and every year. They obviously want to have a successful campaign. 

"Don't get me wrong, I definitely love playing here in St. Louis. I've liked playing here. I've enjoyed the team, the town, the fans are incredible."

Perhaps happiest as much as Parayko that he isn't changing addresses is coach Mike Yeo, who doesn't hesitate putting Parayko in most key situations of games.

"People are going to talk about him because people always want a player like that, which is understandable," Yeo said. "We're lucky we have him. 

"... He's a big part of our identity. He's a part of our core. He's a young defenseman, but you look at the quality he has. First off, he's a phenomenal human being. If we're talking about our culture, these are the kind of guys you want them to be. You see him right now, you guys know, the conditioning, the shape, the work that he's put in this summer, he's a young defenseman who has plenty of growth left in his game and he's already a very, very strong player. On the offensive side of things, we're going to continue to work on things and he's going to continue to grow there, and defensively, he's just as hard to play against as anybody in the league. When you take that kind of size and that type of range and skating ability, that's a real tough player to play against. I believe he's a big part of our core and a big part of our identity as a team."

Parayko, who has 103 points (19 goals, 84 assists) in 242 regular-season games including 35 points (six goals, 29 assists) and a career-best 22 minutes, 37 seconds ice time per game in 82 games last season, went about his business and hit those target points that would enhance his training and make him a better, more well-rounded player.

"We're starting to pinpoint exactly different areas in our body where we need to just focus on strength and where we can make sure that we increase different things, we do different tests and exercises that will allow to see where we can see improvement and build improvement," Parayko said. "It's definitely been a cool experience to kind of see and kind of grasp the different parts that you can work on and need to improve.

Have the changes been beneficial?

"Yeah for sure," Parayko said. "When you do the tests, you can definitely see that the numbers have changed and the numbers are progressing towards where you want them to be hopefully. That's an exciting feeling."

Some of the target points for Parayko have included making his overall body stronger to be a more physical presence, something that's been called upon by fans who like his game but would like to see a meaner streak in him, as well as being more effective with his slot selection and more precise in getting targets to or around the net.

Parayko has increased his shot total (165, 188 and 212) each season but a career 3.4 percent shot efficiency certainly needs to be better and that tendency to not hesitate and be a bit more selfish needs to be more habitual. But the shot attempts Parayko has taken that went on goal have increased in percentage from 47.1 to 49.5 to 53.8 percent. 

"I'm definitely not happy," Parayko said. "I don't think I should ever be happy where my game is just in the sense that I always want to continue to get better. I always want to improve as a player no matter what areas. As you go through a season, you kind of learn different things and you see where you want to improve and things like that. Obviously I want to continue to move the puck well and make sure I'm doing the right things. Put pucks towards the net would be a big one for me and make sure I'm staying physical and being real hard to play against and winning all the little battles would obviously be key. Just being the player that can be relied on by the players and coaching staff in all situations and making sure that I'm doing them to the best of my abilities so that I can help the team win.

"Even though the (overall) shots have increased a little bit, I still think I have an opportunity to fire a few more pucks. You learn that when you start to throw pucks at the net, it's going to start to generate different opportunities. If you get the puck around then the net, it gives the forwards a good chance to bang away at second and third opportunities. I think that that's something that I want to focus on, to continue to even put more on net or towards that way and definitely be accurate with it to make sure I'm putting it on net or in the vicinity of where forwards are able to get to it and do something with it."

That outdoor rink near his childhood home in St. Albert, which was a common stomping ground in his earlier years, certainly came in handy again this summer for target practice.

"Oh yeah, it's an outdoor rink. It's right by house and it's a good place because it has like the big boards on it already," Parayko said. "All you have to do is make sure you have your net and your shooting board and you're good to go. It's easy to get there, just walk." 

Of course it's natural for a player to search for ways to progress one's game, but with the additions of Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Pat Maroon and Chad Johnson to the Blues' group, it was extra motivation for Parayko to prepare for what could be a special year.
(Hockey Canada photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (right) congratulates Canada
teammate Curtis McElhinney in May during the Worlds.

"I'm extremely excited," Parayko said. "This off-season was a good one for us. Obviously we've made some big additions to our hockey team and if you look, the additions have been really good forwards that are going to play for us at both ends of the ice, they're going to go to dirty areas, do the hard work. They're character guys which is just going to add to the character of our team that we've already got. When you've got that, it's awesome and I think it becomes dangerous. I think if you look at it as a whole, I'm really excited to get things rolling here in camp and kind of start playing preseason games and seeing how the team's going to shape out because this is the year that I'm really excited about."

And that's why Parayko said he's as ready as any training camp he's participated in and show teams why the Blues chose to keep him.

"Yes, 100 percent," he said. "I feel really good with the workouts and I've been skating five days a week. Everything seems to be going real well. I am looking forward to getting back and just being through it for three years now, you kind of get a sense of what you need to do and where you need to be. This is the one I feel best going into for sure. It should be good."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Brodeur steps down as assistant GM, replaced by Bill Armstrong

Hall of Fame goaltender spent past three seasons serving role under 
Doug Armstrong; Bill Armstrong will remain director of amateur scouting

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues announced changes to its operational staff, including the departure of Hall of Fame goaltender and assistant general manager Martin Brodeur.

Martin Brodeur
Brodeur, who owns several of the NHL's goaltending records and was indicted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in June, finished his career with the Blues and played seven games in 2014-15; he joined as a special advisor before being bumped up to assistant GM the past three seasons under Blues GM Doug Armstrong. Before joining the Blues front office, Brodeur played the first 21 seasons of his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils after from 1991-2014.

"We had a great experience with Marty," Armstrong said. "I appreciated his insight and professionalism over the last few years and wish him nothing but the best. Marty and I had talked over the last year and into the spring and really into the summer of the responsibilities that went into and more of the time responsibilities and work responsibilities that went into being an assistant manager. I have a ton of respect for Marty in a sense that he felt that at this point in his life with Max, his son, he wanted to spend a little more time at home. When you look at the hours that an assistant manager has to put in, even in the summer, you have the U-17 tournament, the U-18 tournament, the U-20 tournament, preparing, and Marty just felt that he needed to prioritize his family coming from playing and jumping right into management, he didn't have any time off. So I certainly understood that and we wish Marty nothing but the best as he moves forward. When he does want to get back in a management role and into hockey, his future will take him wherever he wants to go. He has great hockey sense and work ethic and we appreciate everything that he did here.

"... There is a comfort level when you're watching a game and you look to your right and you have Marty Brodeur and you look to your left and you have Al MacInnis in the sense that you try and surround yourself with people that have a different skill set. Obviously I never played one second in the NHL, so being able to bounce ideas off of Marty, not only about goaltending. I think he was so much more than that about his thought process about the game. I'm going to miss having that been-there, done-that sounding board. ... It's not like Marty's dead; we're not going his eulogy here, but there's a lot of things I'm going to miss about Marty not having him around every day just to bounce ideas off of. As a person, you're not going to find a better person, someone to travel with, someone who had a great balance of work and enjoyment. Marty had a smile on his face every day. He brought what I needed here. Don't take us too serious. We're lucky to be in this job. I'm going to try and continue that and learn from those things he brought to me."

When the announcement came down in late June regarding his Hall of Fame announcement, Brodeur seemed happy in his role and was asked if he'd consider moving on when his name was floated out there for potential jobs elsewhere.

"Yeah, it's nice, but I'm not looking forward to really moving on to take bigger roles," Brodeur said. "It's always nice to hear your name. ... Just being on the sidelines (as assistant GM) is good for me. I've got an eight-year-old at home, so I've got to spend some time with him. It's getting tougher and tougher on him.

"... But it's fun. You learn every single year. Every year brings different challenges as far as helping out the organization to try to get better. It's been a good transition, stay close to the game and that's what I wanted after my retirement." 

Brodeur, who will pursue other opportunities according to a team release, will be replaced by Bill Armstrong, who will serve a dual role as assistant GM and his current director of amateur scouting.

"I want to thank Tom Stillman, Doug Armstrong, Chris Zimmerman and the Blues organization for giving me the opportunity to continue my playing career and begin my career off the ice in hockey operations," Brodeur said in a statement. "I am looking forward to the next chapter of my career."

Bill Armstrong, 48, originally joined the Blues in July of 2004 as an amateur scout.  After seven seasons in that role, Armstrong was named director of amateur scouting in August of 2010.

Prior to joining the Blues, Bill Armstrong spent six seasons as a coach in the AHL, including 1998-99, when he helped guide the Providence Bruins to the 1999 Calder Cup Championship as an assistant. As a player, Bill Armstrong captured the 1990 Memorial Cup with the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals before being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round of the 1990 NHL Draft.

"I'm excited about the new position," said Bill Armstrong, who spearheaded drafts that helped the Blues bring in players like Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko, and prospects Ville Husso, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. "It allows me a chance to manage the top end of the draft and continue to bring talent into the organization. Also at the same time, I'm very fortunate to have Doug to work with, to learn from him. He has a wealth of experience, not only being with the Blues but with winning a [Stanley] Cup in Dallas and building winning teams for Canada. I'm excited for that opportunity.

"... Doug and I have worked through some stressful situations when we're at the draft and it's been great to be in those situations and knowing that we can work under stress together and produce talent along with also some trades at the same time. It's been 14 years inside the organization and slowly growing to this point. I'm really excited about staying inside this organization and allow me to kind of grow. We have some great people inside this organization from Dave Taylor to Al MacInnis to Keith Tkachuk ... Robby DiMaio to Tim Taylor ... and some of the names you (media) guys wouldn't be so familiar with. ... They've just been unbelievable to work for. There's a lot of passion and a lot of drive that those guys have."

Also, pro scout Kevin McDonald has been named GM of the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate, San Antonio Rampage, and former NHL defenseman Glen Wesley has been named a development coach, replacing former Blue defenseman Barret Jackman, who will step away to spend more time with his family but with the possibility of returning in some form or fashion if he chooses down the road.

Additional title changes include Ryan Miller, who has been named director of hockey operations, and Dave Farrish, who has been named pro scout. On Monday, the Blues and San Antonio also named the Rampage’s coaching staff, adding former Blues defenseman J.J. Daigneault and former Blues assistant coach Daniel Tkaczuk as assistants under coach Drew Bannister.

Doug Armstrong said there has been no replacement named for Tkaczuk and there won't be one but he did say that video coach Sean Ferrell has the background in skill development and that he could get an increased role in that capacity. 

Doug Armstrong said that MacInnis, special advisor to the GM, will take on more responsibilities in helping Kevin McDonald in San Antonio, will try to get down there once a month with an eye on the prospects. MacInnis will also do more pro scouting.

Mike Yeo is "as excited as I've been to start a season in a long time"

Blues coach more than leased with off-season moves made by 
GM Doug Armstrong adding O'Reilly, Bozak, Perron, Maroon, Johnson

ST. LOUIS -- If it were up to Mike Yeo, the season would start now. 

As in today, right now, right this second.

That's how excited the Blues coach is at this past off-season's acquisitions by general manager Doug Armstrong.

"I can tell you that this is as excited as I've been to start a season in a long time," Yeo said at the Blues' Ice Breaker 2018 event Sunday night in which they unveiled their third jersey, or Heritage Jersey. "The moves that 'Army' made, the areas that he addressed, the depth we have, I'm extremely excited."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues coach Mike Yeo (right) said this is as excited as he's been to start a
season in a long time after a string of acquisitions this summer.

Adding center Ryan O'Reilly via trade, and forwards David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon along with goalie Chad Johnson through free agency has given the Blues (44-32-6, 94 points in 2017-18) an entirely new makeup to a group that missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons last year.

This was a Blues team that went into the final regular season game and lost to the Colorado Avalanche and missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs by one point, but that team, which had Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Kyle Brodziak, Scottie Upshall, Carter Hutton and Tage Thompson at the time is no more.

Not even close.

Berglund, Sobotka and Thompson as well as a 2019 first-round pick and 2021 second-round pick were shipped to the Buffalo Sabres in the trade that brought O'Reilly to St. Louis, Hutton (Buffalo) and Brodziak (Edmonton) departed as free agents and Upshall is going to Edmonton on a professional tryout, just like he did when he came to St. Louis three seasons ago and earned a contract.

But what it means as they head into training camp is the Blues fortified their center ice position adding O'Reilly and Bozak with Brayden Schenn and young guys like Ivan Barbashev and 2017 first-round pick Robert Thomas, who looks to be a primed to make his NHL debut this season, and adding veterans like Perron, who returns to St. Louis for a third stint, and Oakville native Maroon, who comes home on a one-year deal.

But when Armstrong began July 1 by addressing needs with free agent signings of Bozak (three years, $15 million), Perron (four years, $16 million) and Johnson (one year, $1.75 million), there was a sense the Blues were done for the day and that this was a solid way of kicking off the off-season re-tool.

But then the boom of all booms was heard from Niagara Falls all the way to the Gateway Arch when Armstrong pulled off the long-rumored trade in acquiring the 27-year-old O'Reilly from the Sabres to add another solid two-way center, and to say Yeo was stoked to say the least, was an understatement.

"It kind of kept getting better and better," Yeo said. "If we would have stopped (with the Bozak and Perron signings), we would have been very happy. We identified those two guys as guys who would have helped our team and obviously when you're adding guys like that in the free agent market, you're not losing anything from your roster. 

"Obviously the trade for 'O'Ry' there, there's a lot of pieces going the other way. Where we're at with the prospects that we have and where we're at with the guys that we added in free agency, when [Armstrong] was talking potential trade, I got extremely excited about it and he was able to pull the trigger on that and then we add Pat Maroon as well."

Bringing the guy known as 'The Big Rig' home, adding skill and physicality up front on July 10 seemed to be the icing on a cake that was already laced with the sweetest icing a coach could have asked for. Perhaps Yeo was caught a little off-guard by the addition of Maroon and was content after the activities on July 1, but Armstrong said all along at his exit meeting with the media following last season that this would be an important summer for him.

"I would have been OK if we were (done), but one thing I liked about (signing Maroon), one of the things we talked about if we want to make sure we're a very hard team to play against," said Yeo, who will begin his third season behind the bench after taking over for Ken Hitchcock after 50 games in the 2016-17 season. "The physical element is still relevant in the game today and obviously there's less fighting in today's game than there was back in the day, but what I'll say is physical hockey, finishing checks, wearing on opponents and even some form of intimidation, sticking up for your teammates, that's still a factor. And even if you have players that can bring that element, make your team harder through your lineup bu they play quality minutes and they give you quality ice time and can chip in offensively, then obviously that's a real value to your group."

But according to Yeo, the Blues weren't necessarily done "acquiring" players, but this one is a bit more unique than the others.

"And on top of that, we haven't really talked about it, but it's kind of like we signed a free agent in Robby Fabbri as well, a guy we haven't had for a year and a half now," Yeo said. "If he can come in and try to get back to the level that we know he's capable of playing at and he can do that quickly, that's another huge add for our group."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron returns to the Blues for a third time after spending last season
with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Yeo is going to need a plethora of No. 2 pencils and a season supply of erasers trying to mix and match line combinations, power-play groups and penalty kill units, because there's a host of players ready, willing and able.

"I'm going to be a typical coach and say, 'We've got a lot of work to do,'" Yeo said "Obviously there's new challenges. We've got to bring our team together. A lot of turnover there and we've got to put everybody in the right role.

"These are guys that have played big minutes with their groups. Pat Maroon's going to factor in on special teams as well. We're adding players that aren't just going to come into our lineup just to get sprinkled in. We're adding guys that have a really strong impact on the game both on the 5-on-5 and the special teams."

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Blues announce games, roster for Traverse City prospect tournament

Thomas, Kostin, Kyrou among headliners 
to be competing in annual tourney for team

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues announced their roster and games as part of their trip to Traverse City, Mich. for the annual prospect tournament Sept. 7-11.

A number of the organization's top prospects will take part in the tournament, including forwards Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Klim Kostin and 2018 first-round pick Dominik Bokk, defensemen Mitch Reinke and Jake Walman and goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick. 

The Blues will be participating in the tournament along with Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota and the New York Rangers.

The Blues will be a part of the Gordie Howe Division, along with Carolina, Chicago and Columbus; they play the Hurricanes on Sept. 7 at 2:30 p.m. (CT), the Blue Jackets on Sept. 8 at 2:30 p.m. and Blackhawks on Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. The final day of competition, to be determined by placement in the standings, will be Sept. 11.

All of the Blues' tournament games will be streamed live on FOX Sports GO.

The Blues' tourney schedule:

Sept. 7 vs. Carolina, 2:30 p.m.

Sept. 8 vs. Columbus, 2:30 p.m.

Sept. 10 vs. Chicago, 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 11 – Championship, TBA

Gordie Howe Division

St. Louis Blues

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Ted Lindsay Division

Dallas Stars

Detroit Red Wings

Minnesota Wild

New York Rangers

The Blues' 2018 Traverse City Roster/round selected:


#18 Dominik Bokk (1st, 2018)

#33 Jordan Kyrou (2nd, 2016)

#36 Robert Thomas (1st, 2017)

#37 Klim Kostin (1st, 2017)

#51 Nolan Stevens (5th, 2016)

#52 Erik Foley (WPG, 3rd, 2015)

#53 Austin Poganski (4th, 2014)

#54 Adam Musil (4th, 2015)

#59 Mathias LaFerriere (6th, 2018)

#65 Alexei Toropchenko (4th, 2017)

#73 Bobby MacIntyre (undrafted)

#74 Jared Thomas (undrafted)

#83 Tanner Kaspick (4th, 2016)

#84 Peter Abbandonato (undrafted)

#87 Daylon Groulx (undrafted)


#39 Mitch Reinke (undrafted)

#46 Jake Walman (3rd, 2014)

#60 David Noel (5th, 2017)

#61 Sean Allen (undrafted)

#63 Trenton Bourque (6th, 2017)

#72 Joel Lakusta (undrafted)

#75 Tyler Tucker (7th, 2018)

#77 Niko Mikkola (5th, 2015)


#1 Joel Hofer (4th, 2018)

#85 Evan Fitzpatrick (2nd, 2016)

Monday, August 13, 2018

St. Louis AAA Blues hold celebrity golf classic

Local youth hockey organization has produced 25 NHL draft picks, including 
Keith Tkachuk's son Brady, signed by the Ottawa Senators on Monday 

CLARKSON VALLEY, Mo. -- The list is impressive seeing the names on the St. Louis AAA Blues website under the alumni tag.

There are a number of names that have either played in the NHL, are currently there and some that will be there. In fact, one of them on Monday [Brady Tkachuk] decided to take his talents to Canada's capital city of Ottawa.

And it's no surprise that many of them were on hand Monday for the inagural St. Louis AAA Blues Celebrity Golf Classic at Forest Hills Country Club.
Keith Tkachuk

Established in 1986, the AAA Blues have produced a number of fine tier 1 hockey players that not only have reached the pinnacle of NHL stardom but also college hockey, the United States national team's developmental program and to an extent, at the very least playing on some form of junior hockey with hopes of reaching greater heights. In all, there have been 25 players drafted to the NHL.

Sean Muncy was the event chairman and helped put on Monday's fundraiser that helps build today's players into future hopefuls.

It's no surprise that a number of them were on hand to play shotgun golf.

"It's the organization that's supported me a lot throughout my youth hockey experience in St. Louis," said AAA Blues alumni and Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman, who played with 2008 Blues second-round pick Philip McRae on the team born in 1990. "It's great to be out here and to give back. Obviously there's teams full of kids that are still playing and hopefully they see us out here and see that we definitely care and we're really appreciative of everything they've done for us."

The list is impressive: Paul Stastny ('85), who got drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round in 2005 and Paul's brother Yan ('82), picked in the eighth round by the Boston Bruins in 2002; Mike McKenna ('83), selected by the Nashville Predators in the sixth round of the '02 draft and Cam Janssen ('84), a fourth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in '02; Ben Bishop ('86) in third round in '05 by the Blues; Pat Maroon ('88) in the seventh round of the '07 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers; Scott Mayfield ('92), a second round pick of the New York Islanders in 2011; Al MacInnis' son Ryan ('96), chosen by the Arizona Coyotes in the second round in 2014; Blues goalie prospect Luke Opilka ('97), picked in the fifth round in 2015, and then there's the big class of players from 2016, of which five of six (Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk, Arizona's Clayton Keller, Ottawa's Logan Brown, Minnesota's Luke Kunin and Boston's Trent Frederic) all went in the first round to their respective teams. Toronto selected Joseph Woll in the third round. And then there's Luke Martin ('98), who went to Carolina in the second round in 2017 and Brady Tkachuk, who was the fourth pick of the Senators in the draft this past June.

"It means a lot to us," said Blues alumni and father of Matthew and Brady, Keith Tkachuk, who is one of the alumni to give back time to coach kids and is a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer. "This is where my kids grew up playing. This is where they had a lot of success, they had great coaches and it gave them a great chance to move on to the next level, play junior, then play college, one play college and then now both sign pro contracts and hopefully they have long careers in the pros.

"I think a lot of (molding the players here) has to do with the players that have played, retired here in the city and who have been back and really got the ball rolling with this program and started off from scratch. It's gotten better and better each year and I think you're going to see kids succeed because of the people in front of them playing in the National Hockey League. It's going to be awesome. I love it. I've been a part of it and I miss it."

And Wideman is one who credits not only his parents Gary and Julie, season-ticket holders back in the day who took Chris and his brother to see Brett Hull among others, but also coaches/alumni who took the time to make the players that come through the AAA Blues system better.

"It all starts with the Blues alumni that have stuck around and coached," Wideman said. "Just a few to name off that helped me along the way, Mike Zuke, Basil McRae, Rob Ramage. Al MacInnis was out there helping out later on in my career growing up. It starts with those guys, then you have guys like Larry and Scott Sanderson that ran the U-18 program for a bunch of years, just great people that didn't even have kids on the team but are riding on the bus for 12 hours to Detroit and north of that. Awesome memories playing for the U-18 team and all the teams growing up.

"We're all extremely proud to be back here today. Any time you can come back and say thank you, show appreciation for people that laid the foundation for you. I think it's just as important for me to thank guys like Paul and Yan Stastny, guys that paved the way to give me an opportunity to live my dream of playing in the NHL and playing in college and junior. A lot of thank you's all around."

The Stastny brothers were accompanied by their Hockey Hall of Fame father Peter Stastny, who finished his illustrious 15-year career with the Blues in 1995 and paved the way for Paul and Yan when they were young.

Chris Wideman
"The St. Louis Blues movement, kind of the Brett Hull shift in the early 90's, hockey really boomed over here," Paul said. "It just shows what kind of talent there is here. A lot of people end up settling down here, raise their kids here and are always in the community. For me, it was big in my career on the ice hockey-wise but also meeting a lot of different people and growing as a person and I always wanted to give back and stay involved with it. Whether I'm living here or I'm not, this is always going to be where I was raised and home to me and I'm always going to have ties here. Any way I can give back and help out, I'm always there.

"I don't even know how many years I played, it was five, six years. From the coaches I had, Scott Sanderson, I'm still good friends with him. When I was younger, I always thought that was his full-time job is coaching triple-A, but as you get older, you realize everyone volunteers, whether it's coaches, different parents. They have different jobs and a family at home and they're always giving back to the kids and helping them out. It's all about giving back. Those are the people that paved the way."

Al MacInnis, a Hockey Hall of Famer himself and AAA Blues board of directors member, Blues alumnist Bob Plager and current Blue Alexander Steen were on hand Monday, and Steen said from someone who wasn't part of the AAA Blues in his day, he's impressed how they've developed kids.

"It's been special for me to see because when I first came here to where it is now, with the work that the alumni and everybody around, the Blues organization, the community and how tight they get together right away, to see what they have accomplished with all the first rounders that have come through lately, how they do at these tournaments that they travel around to, it's impressive what's gotten done here," Steen said.