The St. Louis Blues suffered a big blow in their shootout win over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night, as the team lost Pavel Buchnevich in the first period of the game due to an upper-body injury.
Buchnevich has been the Blues’ best player since being brought over from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais (who was later reacquired) and a second-round pick.
He has been the consistent star for St. Louis when others have struggled. In 138 games for the Blues in his career, Buchnevich has recorded 56 goals and 143 points. You will be hard-pressed to find a player who averages more than a point per game in the NHL.
The Buchnevich injury resulted in a quick line shuffle during the game. Brandon Saad initially took his spot on the team’s top line with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, while Alexey Toropchenko was the fourth-line player who earned a promotion mid-game.
Now, the St. Louis Blues’ forward depth will be immediately tested. The team signed a few reinforcements in the offseason, bringing in Oskar Sundqvist, Kevin Hayes, and Mackenzie MacEachern to add depth.
With the injury coming just two games into the season, St. Louis will look internally to replace Buchnevich on the roster. An AHL player is likely headed to St. Louis before their next game on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes.
Here are three players who could realistically be called to replace Buchnevich’s spot in the starting lineup. Unfortunately for the Zach Bolduc fans out there, he does not make this list.
1. Nikita Alexandrov
Head coach Craig Berube may have hinted at how he wants to handle the Buchnevich injury. Saad was elevated to the first line, while Toropchenko received time in the Blues’ top nine.
Nikita Alexandrov beat out MacEachern and many other minor-league forwards to earn a spot on the opening-night roster. He played extremely well at times during the 2022-23 season and could earn a quick promotion to the starting lineup on Thursday.
Alexandrov, a former second-round pick by the Blues in 2019, made his NHL debut last season with St. Louis and appeared in 28 games. He scored his first three NHL goals and added four assists while playing mostly on the team’s fourth line.
The 23-year-old brings some faceoff skill to the table and can fill in for Sundqvist if he gets tossed from the circle. Alexandrov is not a sexy pick to replace Buchnevich on the roster, but the second-round pick has earned the chance to be one of the first in line.
2. Zach Dean
Zach Dean was among the last players to be cut from the NHL training camp roster. He was acquired last season in a trade that saw Ivan Barbashev go to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.
The former first-round pick is entering his first eligible season in the AHL with Bolduc. Dean’s junior career was special, as he dominated play as a member of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques.
In his final season in 2022-23, Dean posted 70 points in 50 games as he recorded 33 goals and 37 assists. He followed the stellar regular season with 10 goals and 16 assists in 13 playoff games in The Q.
If Dean were to be called up, he would need guaranteed playing time in a role similar to what Toropchenko occupied to finish the St. Louis Blues game against the Kraken. It’s unlikely he gets called up, but Dean has proven his skill at every level in his hockey career so far.
3. Mackenzie MacEachern
MacEachern’s call-up is twofold. It is the most likely to happen, and the least exciting pick of the crop of players. MacEachern got the longest new contract that the Blues handed out this summer after signing a two-year deal with the Blues.
He missed most of the 2022-23 season with the Carolina Hurricanes but did make a quick cameo in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Hurricanes.
His signing was a pure-depth move. He has not been a constant NHL goal scorer in his career, and he is relied on for his defensive skill and his ability to throw around his body when he gets time on the fourth line.
The 29-year-old was brought in for exactly this kind of moment. Someone who could occupy a spot in the press box while a player like Alexandrov gets more ice time in the event that a player is lost to injury.
If he gets called up, don’t expect his name in the starting lineup when the Blues take on the Coyotes on Thursday night.