Open Roster Spots Puts Blues Prospects in Good Postion

By Chris DeGroat

When the Blues take the ice Sunday morning to open up training camp, the atmosphere
will be much different than previous years. Blues GM Larry Pleau spent the summer
promoting competition between the players. Unlike recent years, many players in
camp have a legitimate shot at making the team and some players are even playing
for a chance to line up next to Doug Weight on opening night against Anaheim.

Here are the ten players with the best chance of wearing a Bluenote out of training
camp along with odds for making the team:

Petr Cajanek
Odds: 3-1
With the loss of Scott Young and the disappointment of a couple others, St. Louis
has two spots on the top two lines there for the taking. Both parties have made
it pretty clear that Cajanek didn’t come over to play in the AHL, so expect the
Czech league MVP to make a strong push for one of those spots.

Barret Jackman, D
Odds: 4-1
One might think that Pronger being out till January locks Jackman in for the 2002-03
season. Think again. Even with Pronger out, there will be eight blueliners competing
for the six starting positions. Quenneville is high on Jackman, but has made it
clear that he’ll have to earn the spot. If he doesn’t, he’d get sent back to Worcester
before getting delegated to press box duty.

Eric Boguniecki
Odds: 7-1
For the first time in his career, the 5’8 feisty center will have a legitimate
shot going into training camp. His best shot of making it would be to quickly
develop chemistry with a top line player and ride that through camp and straight
on into the regular season. He may however, have to settle for being in the running
for a 2nd straight AHL MVP award.

Tom Koivisto
Odds: 7-1
Like Cajanek, Koivisto was brought here to make an impact sooner than later. The
2-time Finnish league defenseman of the year will make a strong push to make the
team and in the end may end up being trade bait.. or he might turn someone else
into trade bait.

Marc Brown
Odds: 10-1
As one of the hardest working players in the Blues’ farm system, Brown will get
serious consideration for a roster spot in St. Louis. His game has steadily improved
throughout his time in Worcester and many think he ready for the next level. Brown,
a 30-goal scorer last season in Worcester, is strong in the defensive zone, which
improves his chances considerably.

Matt Walker
Odds: 15-1
Many believe that Walker is ready for the NHL level. Unfortunately for him, he’s
a victim of the depth the Blues have on the blue line. A good camp could get him
some ice time, at least somewhere in the NHL.

Mark Rycroft
Odds: 20-1
As one of the players that made the Blues out of camp last season, you’d think
that Rycroft would have a better chance of making it this year. Unfortunately,
Rycroft’s game fell off considerably after getting sent down to the AHL last season.
If he returns to last season’s form, he’ll improve his chances.

Daniel Tkaczuk

Odds: 30-1
Tkaczuk, who came over in the Roman Turek trade, didn’t have the bet of years
last season. But, he did finish strong and combine that with the fact that Tkaczuk
is running out of opportunities and you’ve got yourself a player that has a shot
at making the team. We’ll have to wait and see if he takes control of the opportunity.

Justin Papineau
Odds: 40-1
In his short stint with the Blue last season, Papineau wasn’t exactly impressive.
He seemed lost on the ice and after returning to Worcester even admitted to head
coach Don Granato that he had a ways to go before becoming an NHL regular. Papineau
will have to have a very impressive training camp to stay in St. Louis for the
season.

Reinhard Divis
Odds 75-1
The only way Divis is going to make the Blues out of training camp is through
an injury or through a trade (of Brent Johnson or Fred Brathwaite). He can’t control
the health of his competitors, but he could play Brathwaite out of a job. Although,
finding a home for Brathwaite could be difficult.

Jame Pollock
Odds: 100-1
Pollock is best known for his amazing slap shot. The problem is.. that’s all he’s
known for. It seems as if Pollock has decided that his best shot of making it
to the NHL level is to work continuously on his slap shot and let the rest of
his game level off or even regress. If this plan of his took a turn over the summer,
he’d have an outside chance of making it, but I wouldn’t count on it.