Robert Bortuzzo was a tremendous depth piece for the St. Louis Blues defense in 2018-19, and he will begin the 2019-20 season with a potential starting role in mind.
The St. Louis Blues have seven defensemen that are worthy of a starting role but unfortunately for Robert Bortuzzo, he seems to be on the outside looking in. Scoring only 10 points in 59 games last season, it looks like he may have a hard time displacing Carl Gunnarsson or Joel Edmundson early on.
While this may seem like a very negative way to begin an article, let me go on to say that as the season progresses, Robert Bortuzzo will have plenty of opportunities to earn more time and has the potential to do some really good things for this hockey club.
His most attractive quality is the toughness he brings to the lineup. Bortuzzo is a player who does fear getting physical or blocking pucks. He blocked 72 shots in 59 games last season, and in 2017-18 he blocked a career-high 108 shots in 72 games.
He also does a decent job taking care of the puck with only 20 giveaways. In addition, his possession metrics (Corsi For) sit at 54.0 (which means his team had the puck more often than not when he was on the ice).
Comparing those numbers to who we assume will start as the sixth defenseman Joel Edmundson, Bortuzzo had significantly fewer turnovers per game and was nearly four Corsi points better.
Big number 41 may not be an offensive machine, but 10 points (2 G, 8 A) and a +/- of +9 should be enough for opposing teams to keep a watchful eye on him. He showed what he can do with a little bit of space when he buried a go-ahead backhanded wrister to give the Blues the lead in game two of the Western Conference Finals.
Diving even deeper into the numbers shows us that he contributed 2.7 defensive share points (DPS) to the Blues last season. In the year prior, he put up 3.3 DPS. Bortuzzo could easily be in the starting six for several NHL teams but finds himself on a team that has several spectacular defensemen.
While Bortuzzo may fly under the radar a little bit, expect the big man to put up a strong push for an everyday role. If he can nab one, I believe that he can easily put up 12-15 points next season.
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More importantly, I could see him putting up a career-high in defensive point shares and continue his strong Corsi For numbers.