Going into the season, it was already clear that the St. Louis Blues had a strong lineup and did not need to rush any young players. Fortunately, even with the few spots available at the NHL level, a couple of prospects are enjoying increasingly significant roles as the Blues make a run for the NHL playoffs.
Regardless of the outcome, this season will dictate the future of the Blues. They have pushed for the playoffs for the past few years and will look to re-sign current players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Joakim Lindstrom in the offseason. With the third lowest cap space in the league, the Blues will need to give it everything this year before they make some difficult decisions come summer time. With that said, the performance of their young players will dictate the future of the club, and the Blues will be looking to the following names to finish the season on a high note.
Jake Allen, G, 24
Jake Allen was once considered the best goalie prospect in the Blues system but was surpassed by Jordan Binnington over the past year. He is a strong goaltender and has been given ample opportunity to succeed in the NHL. Playing behind Brian Elliott, Allen has played in 26 games this season and has maintained a record of 16-5-2. He supports an above average 2.45 goals against average and a 0.907 save percentage. After Elliott went down with an injury, Allen also spent some time playing with Martin Brodeur, who will now be a part of the Blues’ front office. He has quite a bit of experience for his age and should get another opportunity during the playoffs as Elliott’s backup.
Considering his consistent NHL role, it is highly likely that Allen makes the jump to graduation this season. However, given the Blues’ constant need to sign a more experienced goalie, Allen’s chance at the number spot could be a few years away. As long as he continues to improve and helps the team win games, Allen should have a consistently-increasing role with Blues for the near future.
Dmitrij Jaskin, RW/LW, 21
Turning 22 this March, Jaskin has proven to be the most NHL-ready forward in the Blues’ prospect pool. He showed a solid two-way game last season and has brought a nice scoring touch to his game this year. He has seen increased minutes as the season progresses and seems to have the full confidence of his coaching staff. Playing in 18 AHL games, Jaskin scored four goals and 11 assists before getting the call from the Blues.
As an NHL player this year, Jaskin has scored eight goals and four assists in 30 games. In his defense, he has been playing a third line role with very limited time on special teams. He scored his first power play goal on February 12th which could be a sign of good things to come. For now, Jaskin will have to maintain his consistency at both ends of this ice while taking his game to the next level, and the NHL playoffs should help him do that this season.
Petteri Lindbohm, D, 21
Lindbohm was given a short nine-game stint in the NHL before getting sent to the AHL. He spent the past three seasons in the Finnish Liiga and maintained a strong role with both Jokerit Helsinki and Assat Pori. During his nine games with the Blues, Lindbohm scored one assist and was a -2. He did not see very much ice time but has been given a much larger role with the Chicago Wolves. In 41 games so far this year, Lindbohm has scored six goals and 11 assists from the blueline. He has good size and skill but will need to get a lot stronger physically and improve his game in both zones to have a better chance at a full-time NHL role.
Ty Rattie, RW, 22
Playing in even fewer games than Lindbohm, Rattie was called up for five games earlier this year before being sent back down to the Wolves. He has been having a great season in the AHL and was given a short opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level. In those five games, Rattie scored one assist and looked to be a bit out of place at times. He is still quite young and will have to overcome the size issue. He has always been criticized for his stature but more time in the AHL will help him transition to the pros. In 46 games with the Wolves, Rattie has a very impressive 17 goals and 12 assists, good for fourth on the team in scoring. As long as he continues to produce in the offensive zone and find ways to use his speed, Rattie should have no problem overcoming the size factor at the next professional level.
2015 World Junior Tournament Update
The Blues had just three prospects at the IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships but they all played major roles for their respective teams throughout the tournament. Leading the way is none other than Ivan Barbashev. He is an absolute beast for his age group and has proven it at all levels of hockey. He played in seven games for Russia and scored three goals and three assists. As a junior player in the QMJHL, Barbashev has scored a whopping 34 goals and 41 assists in 47 games this year, good for 12th in the league. With the Moncton Wildcats already qualified for the QMJHL playoffs, expect Barbashev to play a major role for the club down the stretch.
Next down the list is Robby Fabbri. He had been tearing it up in the OHL for the Guelph Storm, hoping to lead the team to another OHL Championship. In 22 games, Fabbri had 18 goals and 20 assists but went down with an ankle injury during the WJC. He played in five games for Canada and scored two goals and four assists. He was a major part of the team’s early success and was an inspirational factor down the stretch. He was handed the trophy, and rightfully so, as the Canadians hoisted the championship after beating Russia in the final game. He has yet to return to game action.
Last on the list is Ville Husso, a talented goaltender playing in the Liiga for HIFK. He was selected to play for Finland but was not given a legitimate chance to succeed after splitting some starts with Juuse Saros (NSH). He showed good poise and speed throughout the tournament, posting a .923 save percentage in three games, and Finland might have been better off naming him the starter off the bat. After an impressive tournament, Husso has continued his strong play in the Liiga, maintaining a strong 2.16 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage over 36 games.
Prospect of the Month
While any one of the players mentioned above could have stolen this spot, especially those playing at the WJC, Jordan Binnington has to take the title for the past month. He has proven to be a reliable goaltender at all levels of hockey and has become a very comfortable rookie netminder in the AHL. In January, Binnington maintained a 3-3-2 record with a 2.74 goals against average and a 0.910 save percentage. In the month of February, Binnington is 4-2-0 with a 1.90 goals against average, 0.932 save percentage and one shutout. He is making a strong case for the AHL Rookie of the Year and should continue his strong play as the Wolves make a push for the AHL playoffs.
Follow Suraj Sukumar on Twitter at @Sukumar_S87