For those that missed the news, the St. Louis Blues got their 2021 offseason started by re-signing pending restricted free agent Tanner Kaspick. Kaspick gets a one-year, two-way deal that will pay him $750,000 if he plays in the NHL.
The key part of that phrase is “if he plays” in the NHL. While the team still sees value in Kaspick – they wouldn’t bring him back just to have a warm body – he has not broken away from the pack.
In fairness, Kaspick has barely gotten a good look in the pros. He does have 125 games in the AHL, however due to various factors, including a pandemic, he has not played a full professional season yet.
Kaspick has taken baby steps in his brief pro career. He had four goals and eight points in 46 games in his very first season with the San Antonio Rampage in 2018-19.
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He almost doubled the point total the following year, scoring 14 points, with six goals, in 59 games before everything shut down. Unfortunately, as was the case with so many prospects around the league, 2020-21 proved to be a stumbling block.
When the Springfield Thunderbirds elected not to take part in the 2021 season, they left the Blues hanging for a place to put their prospects. Those that did not make the taxi squad found other options and several went to the Utica Comets.
The bad thing about that is the Comets are affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks. So, much like the season where the Blues shared the Rampage as an affiliate with the Colorado Avalanche in 2017-18, it proved to be somewhat of a waste.
The Comets still felt more loyalty, as they should, with the Canucks prospects, so they got more looks in more advantageous positions. Thus, Kaspick only played 20 games, registering two goals and five points.
While it’s hard to tell what kind of talent Kaspick can be, the clear thing is that he’s not lit the world on fire. So far, he looks like a role player.
His problem going forward is what kind of role can he take in the NHL. Despite decent offensive production and being a captain in juniors, Kaspick has to transition himself to a different style that can land him an NHL job.
A prime example is Sammy Blais. Blais was a much more offensive player before going pro.
He scored over 30 goals in two consecutive seasons prior to joining the Chicago Wolves. Even there, he scored 26 goals and 43 points as well as three goals and eight playoff points.
However, the scoring ability just did not really transfer to the NHL. That tends to happen when you make the move to the most talents league in the sport.
After splitting time between the NHL and AHL, Blais made a concerted effort to not give the coaching staff a reason to send him back down. His way was becoming a human missile.
Whether Kaspick can do the same is yet to be seen. He’s got the same kind of body frame, but whether he has the mentality to switch to a physical style in the NHL is unknown.
Maybe he can figure out something else besides just hitting. Blocked shots, strong forechecking or just hassling the opponent are all things that endear yourself to a coaching staff.
Many fans think all that stuff just comes naturally, but it depends on how you learned the game. For example, Pat Maroon was basically the biggest, strongest and most talented player in junior, but he had to find his own niche once he went pro because so many guys were not intimidated and were faster.
Other than family, friends and scouts, nobody has seen enough of Kaspick to really know what his niche might be. He’s going to have to figure that out.
He has at least one more season with the franchise to make an impact and show the staff he deserves a look. It’s almost a sure thing that his offense will not be enough, so he’s got to figure out what else he can provide to make the league.