The St. Louis Blues once had one of the crown jewels of prospect pipelines in the NHL. Things are quite different now.
It was just a few years ago that the St. Louis Blues had one of the best talent pipelines in the entire NHL. Things have definitely shifted in a short span.
Of course, one of the biggest things to change the landscape of the talent pipeline has been players making the league and some traded.
Robert Thomas is a top-nine forward already and knocking on the door for a top six centerman role. Jordan Kyrou is still in the coaching staff’s doghouse due to a perceived lack of defensive effort at times, but he’s on the NHL roster and pushing to become a regular. Tage Thompson was once in that touted talent pipeline, but he was included as part of the trade that brought Ryan O’Reilly here.
All this promotion, coupled with a few drafts that saw the Blues selecting even lower than normal, and you have a slight void. That void is represented in thick, black, permanent marker by the fact the Blues have absolutely no prospects representing their countries in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships.
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The World Juniors is a national team tournament featuring the best players under 20. Most of them tend to be 19 or under, but occasionally a 20 year old will sneak in there.
Unfortunately, the number of Blues representing both them and their country has been waning over the last few years. In the 2020 tournament, only Joel Hofer and Nikita Alexandrov suited up for the Blues.
Hofer showed well in helping Team Canada take home the gold. This year, Hofer is expected to compete for an AHL spot, but he has also likely aged out.
The same is true for Alexandrov. He has been held out of most competitions under the idea he’ll be playing in Springfield whenever the AHL season starts up.
Of course, the absence of WJC players does not automatically mean the cupboard is bare. Scott Perunovich is not eligible, as he is 22 years old, but he has a legitimate shot to make the Blues in 2021 if he has a good camp.
The Blues still have an eye out for Noah Beck, Jeremy Michel and Mathias Laferriere. Despite having decent starts to their junior seasons, Team Canada is just too deep for any of them to get a sniff.
Tanner Dickinson is age eligible, but has not shown well enough in camps or his junior seasons yet. At 18, he is more likely to get selected for the 2022 team, if at all, anyway.
Ultimately, the Blues not having anyone at the WJC doesn’t mean they have no talent waiting. It has little to no bearing on how their AHL team will do.
The only slightly worrying aspect is the idea that there might be a gap between pro talent waiting in the wings and guys at the junior level waiting for their chance. It doesn’t help that the Blues are literally the only team out of 31 NHL franchises without a player at the World Juniors.
For those that want to watch the future prospects of other teams, or just root for Team USA, the 2021 WJC kicks off on December 25. Games will be televised in the United States on NHL Network.