Other St. Louis Blues Preview Content:

The St. Louis Blues have an interesting prospect pool. It feels as if general manager (GM) Doug Armstrong doesn’t value any of his prospects as untouchable, but maybe he should.

My 2021-22 list will vary much more than my 2020-21 list, as players have developed and system has changed since then. The line between untouchable and potentially touchable is thin, I’ll ride that line with this list. Keep in mind that untouchable for the Blues is a loose term as their pool of prospects is less than strong.

1. Scott Perunovich – Left Defense

We don’t know exactly what Perunovich is, but with his track record in college at Minnesota-Duluth, he is likely the best prospect in the Blues’ system. Remember, the Blues took him with the 45th pick in the 2018 draft.

He reminds me of Torey Krug in terms of his offensive style, he is an undersized defenseman as well at 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds. He may not have the true power-play prowess that Krug has, but he was the best defenseman in college hockey just a few seasons ago. Being the best, he won the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top individual player with a 40-point season over 34 games in 2019-20.

He hasn’t played organized hockey since that brilliant 2019-20 season at Minnesota-Duluth and underwent shoulder surgery in February of this year.

He has done nothing but produce points at all of the levels he’s played in, he’s a rare defenseman for the Blues system. They don’t usually develop these types, the only other high-level undersize offensive defenseman in the organization is a free agent in Krug.

The reason the Blues shouldn’t consider trading Perunovich is simple, he has a ton of boom or bust potential, with a lot of boom if he can stay healthy. He should have the chance to crack the lineup at some point in the 2021-22 season, but I assume he’ll start the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Blues affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds.

2. Zachary Bolduc – Center

Not only is Bolduc a typical Blues forward, he was their first-round pick in the 2021 draft. Obviously he becomes untouchable as a first-round selection from two months ago.

There are more reasons as why to he makes this list, one of them being that he is more than a couple years away from being remotely NHL-ready. These aren’t the type of prospects you trade either, especially since there is a premium on true centers and he might be one.

He played two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the Rimouski Oceanic, and was very productive. He played with New York Rangers‘ first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere in 2019-20 and scored 52 points in 55 games.

His production didn’t slip without him either, as he tallied over a point per game at 29 points in 27 games for the Oceanic in a shortened 2020-21 season.

As if his fit in the system couldn’t get any better, he is a big body 6-foot-2 center who is powerful in the corners with the puck. He’s billed as a smart player that has terrific awareness in all three zones.

Bolduc could be a legitimate top-six forward for years to come if he is properly developed in the system. There is virtually no better fit for a prospect like Bolduc and Blues know that, they will try to make this pick pan out.

3. Joel Hofer – Goaltender

Hofer makes the list again this year, he is far and away the best goaltender in the Blues pool of prospects right now. He could turn out to be a gem, and the Blues’ organizational goaltending group is weak after him and Jordan Binnington.

One of the biggest reasons as to why he makes this list is because of the Blues thin group of goaltenders, and his value is much higher here than anywhere else.

I don’t look too far into the fact that Hofer struggled during the 2020-21 season with the Utica Comets, the Blues temporary American Hockey League (AHL) team. He had a save percentage (SV%) of .898 with a shortened season in 10 games.

His numbers would indicate that he is still a ways away from breaking into the NHL, as his numbers in the Western Hockey League (WHL) have been far better than at a higher level in the AHL. He posted a SV% of over .910 in three WHL seasons split between the Swift Current Broncos and Portland Winterhawks.

At 21 years old, it isn’t surprising to see him struggling as a goaltender in the AHL, it took Binnington over seven seasons of minor league hockey to break into the AHL at 26 years old. Hofer is still highly regarded in the Blues system and patience will continue to be key for his future success.

4. Klim Kostin – Left Wing

I’m going to sell out and take Kostin, he’s still 22 years old and has only six NHL games under his belt. He’s untouchable because he is so close to NHL ready and should get his chance soon.

Some may think he isn’t a prospect still, but he remains so in my view, his age combined with games played in the NHL confirms that. He’s much more ready to take the next step into the NHL in comparison to the other three players on this list.

Even with a lot of veteran forwards available on the roster, Kostin should crack the lineup on opening night. One of the biggest factors for him is Vladimir Tarasenko’s return and Oskar Sundqvist’s injury. There is virtually 10 guaranteed forwards who will get into the lineup. That leaves two spots left and Kostin should get one.

One of the biggest jumps in his development was the 43 games he played for Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Even though the game is different there, they went onto win a title and he played key minutes for them.

Playing in those big games is a huge step for a Russian player and it makes a team feel like you are ready to go, the Blues should feel that way about him. He fits the mold of a Blues forward far too well to give up on him, he needs to get a chance and he should with the opening of the 2021-22 season.

The Blues prospect pool is likely within the bottom 10 of the league, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some gems in there. They’ve also showed a willingness to trade away big prospects in the past, such as Tage Thompson, Dominik Bokk and others. But with these four players, they should get a chance to be in the lineup sooner rather than later.

This article first appeared on The Hockey Writers and was syndicated with permission.

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.