Blues Rookie Dean Set for Increased Role After Sundqvist Injury

The 21-year-old steps up for a bigger role on the Blues' 4th line after Sundqvist was announced he'd miss the remainder of the season with an ACL tear
St Louis Blues v Ottawa Senators
St Louis Blues v Ottawa Senators / Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

Despite just a single game of NHL experience under his belt this season, Blues rookie and Springfield prospect Zach Dean could play a bigger role for the team in the remaining 10 regular season games. He takes the place on the Blues' 4th line alongside Nathan Walker and Kasperi Kapanen, stepping in for 9-year veteran Oskar Sundqvist after the 30-year-old center sustained a season-ending ACL tear on Monday in their 2-1 defeat to Vegas at home.

The 21-year-old center, a native of Grand Prairie, Alberta, has yet to score his first NHL goal, as he's spent the majority of the 2023/24 campaign with the Blues' AHL affiliate in Springfield. He's played 47 of the 72 regular season games in a typical AHL season, with 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points.

Still, there is potential for him to make an impact in the pros, as indicated by his respectable debut in Ottawa. One week ago, he played 9 minutes and participated in 3 faceoffs, plus a takeaway. Now, those numbers for so late in the season may not be impressive, but remember- it's his first ever season with an NHL team, which is never easy for anyone, and he's spent most of his time with Springfield. But he does have insane numbers from his junior days in Quebec with the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, so given time, Dean could eventually become a high-profile NHLer.

Dean's first view of what the NHL was like came when he attended a game in Boston, which ended up being a dominant 5-1 victory for St. Louis, arguably one of their best wins this season. In that game, Dean's future linemate Kapanen had 3 points, consisting of a goal and 2 assists to pick up 2nd star of the game honors. Kevin Hayes, a member of the Blues' 3rd line alongside two other youngsters in fellow junior superstar Zach Bolduc (1 G, 2 asst, 3 points in 16 GP) and Alexey Toropchenko (14 G, 5 asst, 19 pts in all 72 GP) nabbed 3rd star honors with a goal and assist each.

Dean's career is looking to come full circle after being drafted by Vegas in 2021 and subsequently dealt to St. Louis in exchange for former Blues Ivan Barbashev. Plus, he's one of a couple of other high-profile Blues prospects looking to make a splash in the NHL come 2024-25, with the likes of Bolduc and Jimmy Snuggerud, the University of Minnesota powerhouse that could sign his NHL entry-level contract as soon as tomorrow if his Golden Gophers don't make it far in this year's NCAA tournament.