The St. Louis Blues have closed out the 2017 Traverse City NHL Prospect Tournament with a 3-1 record and finished in 5th place. The Blues started off the tournament with a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the Minnesota Wild, then a 7-6 comeback win in overtime against the Dallas Stars, a close 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and then a 5-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in the 5th place game. Here are some takeaways from the tournament.
Most Impressive: Klim Kostin, Tage Thompson, Jake Walman
These three guys were the top three-point leaders for the Blues in this tournament. The hype has surrounded Klim Kostin since being the pick acquired in the Ryan Reaves trade. Kostin showed his goal scoring ability in this tournament, netting three goals in four games, he also had two assists. Tage Thompson was the Blues 2016 first round draft pick, and spent time with Team USA in the World Juniors this past spring. Thompson had himself a fantastic prospect tournament, netting four goals and adding five assists in the four games, leading the Blues in goals, assists, and points. Finally, defenseman Jake Walman. Walman showed his prowess by running the point on the power play unit, displayed an incredibly forceful slapshot, and scored on the power play multiple times. Walman finished the tournament with two goals and five assists. These three players certainly have the best chances of anyone from the Blues prospects roster to make their NHL debuts at some point this upcoming season.
Under the Radar: Jordan Kyrou, Adam Musil, Robert Thomas, Alexei Toropchenko
Kyrou displayed his silky mitts in the OHL last season with the Sarnia Sting. As you likely know, Kyrou was drafted with the pick acquired in the Brian Elliott trade two summers ago. Kyrou quietly had a nice tournament, scoring one goal and tallying two assists. However, Kyrou was injured in the game against the Blue Jackets, and missed the remainder of the game along with the next game against the Red Wings. Next is Adam Musil. When thinking of top Blues prospects, Musil isn’t exactly a name that pops up immediately. Musil was a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft by the Blues. He made a name for himself in the prospect tournament though, scoring two goals along with two assists.
Robert Thomas was the highest drafted player of any year on the Blues prospect roster. He was taken with the 20th overall pick back in June. Thomas had a decent tournament as well. He spent the majority of tournament on the Blues top line with Thompson and Kyrou. Thomas looked good on the faceoff draws, and displayed an excellent shot and setup ability throughout the tournament. Thomas finished the tournament with one goal and four assists. If he works on his shot and adds some muscle, Thomas could develop into a very good player rather soon.
Finally, in this group is Alexei Toropchenko. The Russian was drafted in the fourth round this past June, and did not have lofty expectations coming into the tournament. Toropchenko was a pleasant surprise, scoring two goals along with one assist in four games. He will likely play in the CHL this season.
Need To See More: Stephan Dhillion, Thomas Vanelli
Dhillion found himself with the Blues prospect team after being invited to the prospect camp a couple months ago. The 18-year-old went undrafted in the 2016 NHL Draft, and spent some time in the Detroit Red Wings organization before being released. But Blues goalie prospect Luke Opilka was sidelined this summer due to injury, so the Blues needed another goalie alongside Evan Fitzpatrick for the prospect camp and tournament. They invited Dhillion to camp, and he shined when he was given the opportunity. After Fitzpatrick allowed 12 goals through the first two games of the tournament, Dhillion was given the start against Columbus. Dhillion stopped 31 of 33 shots, including a huge game clinching save in the final 10 seconds in a 3-2 Blues victory. That was the only game Dhillion saw action in, and it is questionable if the Blues will take an extended look at keeping him in the organization.
Defenseman Thomas Vanelli was a former second round pick way back in 2013, and was one of the older players on the Blues prospect roster. Vanelli had a decent tournament, scoring one goal and one assist in four games. The 22-year-old has spent each of the last two seasons in the ECHL. Over the last two seasons, Vanelli has played in 46 games, and netted only one goal but added 18 assists for a total of 19 points. Vanelli is more known for his defensive skiils, as opposed to his offense. But if Vanelli has any hope of moving up to the AHL, and maybe even eventually to the NHL, Vanelli is going to have to up his production and continue to be solid on the defensive end.
Needs Improvement: Evan Fitzpatrick
The fact of the matter is, every single player on this roster has plenty of room for improvement, that is why they are NHL prospects and not NHL superstars. But I wanted to talk about one player in particular. Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick. The 19-year-old was taken in the 2nd round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Fitzpatrick as aforementioned allowed 12 goals through the first two games of the tournament. Now there is no need to ridicule a 19-year-old who struggled in a prospect tournament and will not be NHL ready for several more years anyway. Fitzpatrick did play in one more game in the tournament, the 5th place game against the Red Wings. Fitzpatrick was much better than his first two games, stopping 27 of 28 shots in a 5-1 win against the Wings. But Fitzpatrick, as many other prospects, will need to improve his game to move up in the ranks of the Blues organization.
For the first time in a quite a while, the Blues have a surplus of prospects within the organization. As aforementioned, the Blues have prospects such as Kostin, Thompson, and Walman, who could see time at the NHL level this season. The Blues also have players at the AHL level that have high potential such as Vince Dunn, Petteri Lindbohm, and Ville Husso. Then there’s young players currently at the NHL level with the Blues that are young and have flashed potential such as Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, and Jordan Schmaltz. The youth movement is on and the future is looking bright for the St. Louis Blues.