The St. Louis Blues are not exactly flush with top-end center talent. They keep hoping for the next great thing. Their hopes are now centered (no pun intended) on a Canadian kid
The St. Louis Blues pretty well have their lineup picked to start the 2017-18 season. There is room for guys to jump in and make their mark, but they will have to do something special during camp.
With that in mind, Robert Thomas should be more free to just go out and prove what he can do. He is not burdened by the shackles of having to do certain things to make the team.
If he can simply go out there and shine, then there is the slim hope he could end up wearing a Blues sweater this year. In all likelihood, he won’t but you cannot shut the door completely.
What makes Thomas an intriguing player right now is more the possibility of him stepping into Paul Stastny‘s role when his time with the team is over. Most think that Stastny will be done with the Blues following this season, since his contract is up. However, even if Stastny is given one more deal, he won’t be here forever.
This article is not delving into how you should feel about Stastny’s Blues career. It has been well discussed among fans that he has been somewhat of a disappointment.
Personally, I think Stastny has been fine. He just has not lived up to the expectations set when you award someone with a $7 million per season contract.
That’s not his fault the Blues gave it to him. It was the going rate for a big-name free agent in that year. I digress.
Thomas has quickly earned enough praise and showed well enough in prospect camp and the Traverse City tournament. He might just be the playmaker the Blues will need once Stastny is here no more.
Despite only seeing him for a handful of games and a couple practices, Rob Murray of the Tulsa Oilers and coach of the Blues prospect team saw why the Blues selected Thomas.
“This is my first go-round with these kids,” said Murray to Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch. “But right away I could see high hockey IQ (in Thomas). He really sees the game well. He thinks the game very well.”
“His skill set is — I mean that goal he scored (Friday), you can’t teach that. That’s just God-given talent. When you see things like that it becomes really obvious why he was a first-round pick.”
That is high praise from a man who has been around the game quite a bit. While Murray focused a little more on the goal, it is the passer in Thomas that will likely serve the Blues more.
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In his last junior season with the London Knights, he had 50 assists and 66 points. Like Stastny, he is wired to want to pass first.
“I’m definitely more of a passer, so hopefully I can bump up the goal totals a bit,” Thomas told Jim Thomas (no relation). “I like to make a lot of plays. I think I’m pretty tricky with the puck and deceptive, so I like to use that to my advantage. And I think I’m pretty quick around the corners.”
That was one of the main things I heard from fans coming out of prospect camp. Along with some of the other guys, Thomas had really solid hands and could slide through some tight spaces.
That’s what the Blues will need. They need a guy confident enough to drive through the defenders and then dish it off if necessary, but not be afraid to take the shot either.
Hopefully the coaches can drive that last point home early in his development. The Blues ended up with too many guys *coughLehteracough* that would go in on breakaways and look for a pass when a shot was clearly demanded.
Thomas still has a lot to learn and room to grow. He knows he will likely be back in London, Ontario this season. However, it might not be as long as some might think before he breaks into the NHL.
This entire week has been about promise and excitement. As we’ve seen with other players and guys in other sports, it is unwise to put too much pressure on any one prospect before we see what they do against pros.
Still, it is easy to see how his skill set could easily replace Stastny once his time in St. Louis is up.
Personally, I’m all for Stastny staying past his current contract. It would not be at the rate he is getting paid right now, but just the idea of him staying is fine. One would hope he is not the team’s top center anymore, but that is a separate issue.
For the future, you can see top-six forward potential in Thomas. The Blues have been striking gold with their draft picks in terms of potential. Hopefully they are just as lucky in terms of how they actually turn out as professionals.