Brandon Saad, Kevin Hayes, Jake Neighbours
I really like the potential of this line. All three can grind and make life miserable for the opponent, but they also have skill that can outmatch your average third line.
Kevin Hayes could end up being the second-line center if the Blues feel he’s a fit there. He is coming off a 50-plus point season.
His overall style would fit better here though. Brandon Saad is on the downside of his career, but would benefit playing with guys that can still go and have some youth, in the case of Jake Neighbours.
Neighbours spot on this line, or the lineup in general, will be based on production. We saw in 2022-23 that the hunger is there and the work is there, but he needs to take that next step.
He is only 21 and entering his second pro season, but he has to find some consistency. I’m not even talking 20-plus goals, but 12-15 goals and consistent effort every night would be a welcome progression.
Hayes is an interesting X-factor. We know what we’re getting in Saad, which is flashes of his former self, but a player that is made for the third line right now in his career.
Hayes is an unknown and not just because he’s new to the Blues. He put up 54 points last year, but between covid years and inconsistencies, it’s just hard to tell what kind of production he’ll be able to provide. The big hope is that leaving media meccas like New York and Philadelphia will put him at ease to play his game.