Halfway through the third week of July, the St. Louis Blues announced they had signed Jeremie Biakabutuka. He was given a three-year entry-level contract.
For those wondering about the last name, if it looks familiar, it is because it’s not a common last name. His uncle was Tshimanga Biakabutuka and made his name in the sport of football with the University of Michigan and then the Carolina Panthers of the NFL.
Jeremie is trying to make a name for himself. Having completed all his junior eligibility in the QMJHL, Biakabutuka got a cup of coffee in the AHL last season.
He played in three games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He recorded no offensive statistics despite being an offensive minded defenseman.
However, he put up decent numbers in juniors. In his final season with the Charlottetown Islanders, he had 17 goals and 42 points in 56 games to go along with 53 penalty minutes.
His numbers did dry up in their playoff run. However, the Islanders did not perform as a team overall, getting swept in four games.
Biakabutuka got a look with the Blues as an invitee during their development camp earlier this summer. Obviously, he made somewhat of an impact to get offered a deal and then put pen to paper.
Beyond his skills, it’s hard to ignore why the Blues might like a player like Biakabutuka. He checks in at 6’4 and is currently listed at 203 lbs.
He is only 21 years old right now. There is plenty of time for him to get even bigger as far as weight and maybe even grow another inch, if he’s a late bloomer.
Even if that’s as big as he gets, that’s still professional level size. If he can get his skills and overall game to match that, he can have an NHL career even if he went undrafted.
EliteProspects draft guide listed him having superior skating ability and also having defensive pride. That’s good, because the Blues have enough guys that can put up points. They need players, even if this is a few years down the road, that can be dependable in their own zone.
What makes this signing interesting is that it’s clearly an old school project. There is no hype, no expectation and no timetable for a player like Biakabutuka.
The Blues are putting no pressure on him to ever make the NHL. He will or he won’t based on his work ethic and ability to improve.
He’s going to play for the Springfield Thunderbirds in 2023-24. Even though plenty of fans don’t like the current crop of Blues defenders, something will have gone very wrong if we see Biakabutuka in a Blues uniform outside of the 2023 preseason.
Nevertheless, he’s an interesting project. He clearly has the size and has the potential to be a decent puck mover too.
What he does from here on out is up to him.