Decisions on sending Joshua, Perunovich, Brown,
MacEachern to AHL; Sundqvist status; Neal a good fit for Blues
By LOU KORAC
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Decisions, decisions, decisions.
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Decisions, decisions, decisions.
There were plenty of them when it came down to setting the Blues' opening night 23-man roster for the 2021-22 season.
Maybe the hardest one that coach Craig Berube had to make was on that of forward Dakota Joshua, who was assigned to the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League on Sunday after having a strong training camp.
"Very tough," Berube said Monday before the Blues departed for Vail, Colo. for a team bonding trip ahead of Saturday's season-opener in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. "I thought he had a real good camp. I think it's numbers over anything. Also, Dakota, I think it will not hurt him to go down and play some games. I didn't find he played a ton of games last year with the American League not really getting going right away. I think it's important he plays a lot of games and he plays minutes down there. I don't see him being down there too long. The way he performed here in camp is pretty impressive to me. I like him. He's a big guy, he skates, he gets on top of people and he's a hard-nosed player, physical. We'll see what happens."
Defenseman Scott Perunovich, the 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner as the top college hockey player, also had a real good camp here, but the decision on him was a little easier.
"He's never even played a full season in the pros anywhere," Berube said. "It's unfortunate he missed last year with the surgery. He had a great camp too, it was a tough decision for sure. He looked really good up here, but he needs to go play games."
As for forwards Mackenzie MacEachern and Logan Brown, acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators for Zach Sanford, they were assigned to Springfield on Sunday after clearing waivers.
"It was a numbers thing with him, has to go down to the minors and he's got to play and see what happens," Berube said of MacEachern, who has a one-way contract worth $900,000.
Brown, the 11th pick in the 2016 draft, played in three preseason games with the Blues and it's obvious he needs to play and needs to get in the work to make it a go in this organization.
"Logan Brown needs to, more than anything, I think he needs to get some confidence," Berube said. "I think that right now, I'm sure his confidence is not very good coming from Ottawa to here and now going to the minors. Confidence will be a big thing. He's got to go play games and really gain confidence. I think he's got to realize what type of player he wants to be in the NHL and has to be able to stay in the NHL. I think that my message to him is he needs to work on his strength, he's got to get stronger for me and quicker and find a niche to figure out how you can figure out how he can stay in the NHL."
Klim Kostin was assigned to the Thunderbirds as basically a paper transaction on Monday in order for the Blues to be cap-compliant, which they were when they submitted their roster by just under $15,000.
When the Blues place Oskar Sundqvist on long-term injured-reserve on Tuesday, they'll simply recall Kostin, a first-round pick in 2017, back to the NHL roster.
Kostin will begin the season as one of the extra forwards, but Berube said he will play.
"We want to get him in games," Berube said. "I'm not sure yet when, but Klim's got to just keep working on his game. I think it's important for him to learn and to become a real good pro here at the same time, watch some of our guys handle things, how they do things. He's going to get a lot from practices, coaches working with him and developing him getting him ready. He also needs to play games at the same time, We're going to get him into games, he's going to play."
As for Sundqvist, who continues to rehab from a torn left ACL he sustained last season, he will miss at least the first 10 games, or 24 days before he will be eligible to be put back on the active roster, but there is no timetable right now for when that will be.
"He's progressing like we thought he would and he's on a good timetable, I think, and he's working hard," Berube said. "He's doing a lot of good work in the gym and he's out there getting some skating in with the team. He can't do every drill (yet), but I'm not going to put a timetable on Sunny. It's a little bit too early for that in my opinion. We'll just keep hammering away at him and keep working him until he feels like he's ready to perform."
* Neal's fit a good one -- It didn't come as a surprise as training camp moved along that the Blues and veteran forward James Neal were going to be a fit.
The 34-year-old, who came into camp on a professional tryout, signed a one-year contract Saturday for the league minimum of $750,000.
Neal, who scored four goals in five preseason games, will also get paid just north of $1.9 million over the next four years by the Edmonton Oilers, who bought out the remaining two years of his contract that carried an average annual value of $5.75 million.
The Blues hope Neal can provide some of the intangibles perhaps missing from others that were part of the Stanley Cup-winning team of 2019.
"He's obviously a great player and I've played against him for many years," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "Highly intelligent, knows how to find the net and as a guy who's great for our room. I think he's a guy that talks to everyone, has a good time. It's nice. To be able to come in and have a little veteran presence like that just helps us out. He's a guy that's had a lot of success in this league and you can see it's going to help us throughout the course of the year."
Berube said it didn't take him long to figure out Neal would be a good fit.
"I guess once I got to know him and seeing him interact with our team off the ice and on the ice," Berube said. "The energy he brings, I think it's great. He's talking all the time, got a real good vibe to him. We all know the player. We know where he's at in his career, but he's been a guy that's scored lots of goals in his career. I think you can always use that extra goal scoring."