The St. Louis Blues have a potentially special talent in one of their up and coming centers. However, veteran depth is holding him back.
You can never have enough depth at center is a long-used phrase in hockey. The St. Louis Blues have traditionally been thin at center, but now that they have groomed a hot-shot prospect in the middle, they are flush with good players up the middle.
The Blues have a potentially special player in Robert Thomas. You can see flashes of his brilliance in playmaking and are just waiting on getting more consistent.
The problem the Blues face, if you can call it that, is that they have a log jam at center. The Blues have two players at center that are ahead of Thomas in the pecking order. St. Louis has six players on their NHL roster that can play center at any given point.
At this point in his career, Thomas needs to be at or close to the top of that list. However, the truth is he will likely stay on the third line for another season.
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The Blues seem quite set on keeping Brayden Schenn at center. That’s fine, because he plays a strong game up the middle.
The team’s new captain, Ryan O’Reilly, is going to be listed at center on anybody’s roster. You can write that one in magic marker it’s so certain.
So, that basically leaves Thomas to be the center on the third line. Despite the fact it would be nice for him to get top-line minutes and showcase that ability with the team’s better scorers, the reality is that he’s going to end up on that third line.
There’s no point in using Thomas on the wing. While Schenn is the most versatile player on the Blues forward group, he wants to be a center and the team is willing to comply.
The trouble Schenn presents is more how the team goes about its roster, rather than simply being unwilling to move him. The Blues typically organize lines by pairs, with a plug-and-play mentality for the third forward on any line.
Thomas gets along well with Tyler Bozak, so they rarely break them up either. The other wingers on all those lines are intermixed.
With that understanding, unless you make Thomas the center between Schwartz and Schenn, there’s just no way he cracks the top six.
While I dislike this idea on the surface, it makes the most sense given everything the Blues have shown they want to do. Again, there’s just no point in moving Thomas to the wing, which would be your only other option.
It’s good to have depth on the team, especially up the middle. Just like football teams are often built on defense, but in hockey teams with center depth are the real contenders for championships.
If that holds true, the Blues are set up for another run. The only issue is that we should all want Schenn and O’Reilly to stay as long as possible, but the Blues have to break Thomas out of that third line eventually.