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5 players to watch in Traverse City

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

RELATED LINK: Traverse City Roster and Schedule

ST. LOUIS - Many of the Blues' top prospects will compete in the NHL Prospects Tournament this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. The tournament, which pits the Blues against the Minnesota Wild on Friday at 3 p.m., will feature some of the league's top prospects in a four-game, five-day round-robin showdown.

This year's team will be guided by Tulsa Oilers head coach Rob Murray, Blues director of player development Tim Taylor and Blues development coach Barret Jackman. All three are expected to be behind the bench.

"It's all about effort. It's a good time to make a first impression for a lot of these guys," Jackman said. "You want to show you're willing to compete and do the little things to move on and bring that to training camp. A lot of these kids are very good at their age level, and now they're playing against some of the top competition. They have to go out there and prove why they were drafted, and have fun with it, too."

The Blues will play three games against divisional opponents before determining their final matchup on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Every game will be available to watch online at FOXSportsGO.com or by using the FOX Sports GO app.

Here are some players to watch in Traverse City:

1. Klim Kostin

The Blues traded Ryan Reaves and a second-round pick to Pittsburgh at the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago and used the first-round pick they acquired on Kostin, a 6-foot-3, 196-pound forward from Russia. Kostin is a smooth skater, has demonstrated great power and could be an offensive powerhouse for the Blues down the road.

Kostin's season in the KHL and VHL was cut short last year due to a shoulder injury, which also kept him from being a full participant in the Blues' prospect camp last June. But he's healthy now and will get to demonstrate his full ability in Traverse City.

"He's got the skill, size and the strength," Jackman said. "For him to come in and get his first taste of North American hockey, everybody is eager to see what he brings. He has the potential to be a very high-end offensive threat."

"That could be an absolute steal in the draft, maybe (the biggest) I've ever seen," Taylor added. "He's an absolute beast on the ice. He's such a big, powerful man. We were very, very impressed with his play and strength."

2. Tage Thompson

The Blues' top draft pick in 2016 is tough to miss. The 6-foot-5 forward played two seasons at the UConn, scoring 33 goals and 31 assists (64 points) in 70 games at the college level. He turned pro at the end of last season, joining the AHL's Chicago Wolves for 16 regular season games and 10 playoff appearances - where he registered two goals and an assist in the postseason.

Although Thompson has been with the Blues for more than a year, this will mark his first trip to Traverse City for the prospects tournament, and he's eager to prove he's one of the League's top young players.

"I think the goal is to come in and make a good first impression to the organization," Thompson said. "As far as the team goes, we want to win this thing. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it. Your first impression tells everyone your character and what you're all about. Making a good first impression gives you opportunities down the road."

Thompson certainly stood out as one of the top players at the Blues' prospect camp earlier this summer, and he says he's added muscle since then. A strong showing in Traverse City and a solid training camp might earn him a chance to play in some exhibition games later this month.

3. Jordan Kyrou

Jordan Kyrou's strong performance at the World Junior Showcase last month turned some heads - he finished the event as one its top scorers, recording four goals and an assist in three games.

Kyrou also led the OHL's Sarnia Sting with 94 points (30 goals, 64 assists) last season. He was acquired by the Blues in the trade that sent former goalie Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames, and he's showing every bit of the promise Blues scouts first saw in him.

Kyrou will be making his second trip to Traverse City.

"I learned (last year) that it's a fast-paced tournament," Kyrou said. "You've got to play hard and play with a chip on your shoulder. I want to go out there and focus on myself and play my game, and do what I can to help the team win."

Kyrou played on a line with Thompson during the team's prospect camp in June, so don't be surprised if they are linemates again in Traverse City.

4. Jake Walman

The Blues' top six defensemen will all return this season, meaning it won't be easy for a blueliner to crack the lineup right now. The closest player to doing so is probably Jordan Schmaltz, who was called up from the AHL late last season when injuries began to mount. Jake Walman - a 21-year-old defenseman who turned pro late last season - might also be knocking on the door.

Walman stands just a hair over 6-feet tall, but he plays much bigger. A third-round pick (82nd overall) of the Blues in 2014, Walman played three seasons at Providence College, where he helped his team capture an NCAA championship, before forgoing his senior season and joining the Chicago Wolves for 15 games - regular season and playoffs - last season.

Walman will also be making his first appearance in Traverse City this year.

"I was talking to Alex Pietrangelo a little bit, and he said it's a great bonding experience with the guys," Walman said. "Hopefully there is great competition there. I know there are guys on other teams trying to get spots also, so it's going to be competitive and I'm ready to get going."

"Having the Blues jersey on will feel a little bit different, but I'm excited to get it going and I'm looking forward to it."

5. Evan Fitzpatrick

Blues scouts were extremely excited when the club was able to snag goalie Evan Fitzpatrick with their second-round pick (59th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Because of the Blues' depth at the goaltending position - Jake Allen, Carter Hutton and Ville Husso to name a few - Fitzpatrick isn't likely to be on the Blues' roster real soon, but he may very well be the club's goalie of the future.

"He's a great goalie," Walman said. "We shoot on him in practice and he was in Chicago with us when we were practicing in the playoffs. He's a great goalie, and it's good to have someone you trust back there."

Fitzpatrick served as the backup to Husso in Traverse City last season, making just one appearance. He gave up two goals on 34 shots in a Blues' loss. But Husso won't challenge him for playing time this time around - this weekend, Fitzpatrick owns the Blues' crease.

Fitzpatrick's ability at this stage in his career has impressed Blues Assistant GM Martin Brodeur, and well… that's good enough for us.

Video: Prospects want to prove themselves in Traverse City

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