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Blais impressing early in training camp

Forward getting chance to play with Blues' top offensive players

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

HAZELWOOD, Mo. - Samuel Blais showed up for the first day of training camp, saw his name penciled in on a line with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko and had to ask someone else if his eyes were deceiving him.

"(My name) was on a sheet in the room and I saw that when I came in… I was like 'Is it me?'" Blais recalled.

His eyes hadn't deceived him.

He was, in fact, starting on Day 1 with some of the best offensive players on the roster.

"I was very happy and it's a good opportunity for me," Blais said. "They told me I'm not there for no reason. (I've just) got to do my best and try to earn a spot on the team."

Blais, who was selected by the Blues in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, is getting a good, long look in training camp. After skating with Stastny and Tarasenko for the first three days, he has now moved to a line with Robby Fabbri and Alexander Steen.

"I'm looking to see if he can obviously complement some very skilled players," Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "He's shown he deserves more looks. I thought he did a really good job [in Sunday's scrimmage], and I was really impressed with the way he held onto the puck and his poise - I didn't think he looked overwhelmed or nervous playing with (Stastny or Tarasenko) at all. He found a way to make some plays, found a way to score a goal for a skill guy and I liked that he was around the blue paint, too. It was a real good day for him."

While he's currently surrounded by skilled players, Blais is proving to be quite skilled himself.

The 21-year-old forward played three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 71 goals and 107 assists for the Victoriaville Tigres and Charlottetown Islanders. His success translated to the pro game last season when he scored 26 goals and 17 assists (43 points) in 75 games with the Chicago Wolves. Blais also contributed three goals and five assists in 10 playoff appearances with Chicago.

After three years with the Blues organization, Blais has elevated himself to arguably one of the team's top forward prospects.

"I think that everybody has their own rate of developing," Yeo said. "Some guys do it at a very young age, some guys are a little bit later and late bloomers. To me, he's a guy that's continued to find a way to improve. I was extremely impressed from where he was in training camp last year to where he was at the end of last year. Whether he's ready, we don't know. Obviously, we'll give him a chance in training camp. But as long as he continues to improve and work at his game the way that he has, then he's given himself a great chance."

"I've just got to enjoy it," Blais said of getting the opportunity to play with players like Stastny, Tarasenko, Steen and Fabbri. "They're really good players, so I've just got to take my chance and don't be too nervous and embrace the moment.

"I want to make a good impression here," he added. "If I'm going back to the AHL, I just want to have a good start and get a call-up after."

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