The St. Louis Blues have received help from the Springfield Thunderbirds all season. Now, the Blues are healthy and in need of a lift for more reasons than COVID.
Unlike in Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Blues and the rest of the NHL rely on the AHL on a scarce, last resort basis. Although during the 2021-22 season, the Springfield Thunderbirds have come to the rescue on more than one occasion.
We saw the Blues use the Thunderbirds to aid their team when COVID ran through the St. Louis locker room. Now that it has been weeks since the last reported positive COVID test within the organization, they are using the Thunderbirds to call up Mackenzie MacEachern and Alexey Toropchenko.
The play of Klim Kostin and, to a lesser degree, Dakota Joshua has not been enough and has presented some big holes in the St. Louis lineup. Kostin has been a big disappointment early in his NHL career.
After being selected 31st overall in 2017 by the Blues, the Russian winger has just five career NHL goals and 11 points in 46 games. The Blues need more production out of the former first-round pick, so it was an easy choice to send him down.
The intriguing element of today’s transactions is that it brings light to some players in the AHL that are taking care of business and putting up numbers. As a team, Springfield leads the Atlantic Division with 65 points.
The winning culture in Springfield is allowing players to develop at a faster pace. MacEachern has 12 goals and 13 assists in 47 games this season in the AHL. At this point in his career, we know he will be in and out of the lineup on the Blues’ fourth line.
He has played bits and pieces of three NHL seasons over his career but has never played in more than 51 games and has never totaled more than 10 points in the season. MacEachern is in the lineup to throw his body around, and he’s pretty good at it when he wants to be.
Toropchenko, meanwhile, is the only Blue on the roster who is yet to record a point, though that’s not to say he hasn’t been productive. He was part of the first wave of Thunderbirds to make their way to the NHL when the Blues were struggling with COVID.
There’s one name, in particular, to keep your eye on as the AHL season progresses and the NHL season winds down. James Neal was signed by the Blues after a professional tryout but only recorded four points in 19 games.
After spending time on St. Louis’ practice squad, he has made his way to Springfield and has done what you would hope a 300 NHL goal scorer would do – produce.
He has played in seven AHL games for the Thunderbirds and has put seven pucks in the back of the net while adding two assists. If the Blues keep faltering offensively and have the cap room to call up Neal, he could be a sneaky addition for a playoff push.
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Right now, it’s Toropchenko and MacEachern coming to help the Blues, who have not been playing well. Down the road, it could be a more notable name like Neal helping the Blues make another Stanley Cup run.