PITTSBURGH - Tage Thompson grew up idolizing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.
Tonight, he expects to go head-to-head against him.
"Going up against my favorite player, that will be a pretty cool debut," Thompson said. "I feel like I play a pretty similar game to him. I try to imitate him a lot and he's someone I watched all the time growing up. I've been a fan my whole life, and getting a chance to line up with him and try to outplay him will be pretty fun."
The 19-year-old Thompson made a strong impression on Blues coaches and management during training camp, which is why he's on the roster for tonight's season opener in Pittsburgh (7 p.m., NBCSN, KMOX).
"You see his size, you see his shooting ability, you see his skill level," Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "He's a player that's shown he's engaged in all aspects of the game. If he's in the defensive zone, he's aware, he's alert. If he's in the offensive zone, he's involved. That's why he's here today."
"A lot of people think they have to score goals or make a really fancy play to make an impression," Thompson said. "But I think the team and the staff notices the little things you do, like your details away from the puck and how you play in all facets of the game. That's been my focus - making sure I'm doing all the little things right and make sure I do the same thing moving forward."
Video: Thompson, Dunn and Sundqvist on making Blues debut
Thompson finished the preseason tied for the team lead in points with four, registering one goal and three assists in five appearances.
"Obviously (I came in expecting) to make the team," Thompson said. "If you don't have that mindset, you've already lost. You have to come in and be confident in yourself, believe in yourself. If you don't, you're not going to make it. I had that belief right from the beginning."
Thompson skated on a line with Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist in the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, so it's expected that's where he'll be for the start of the game tonight.
Defensively, Vince Dunn is expected to also make his NHL debut. An injury to Jay Bouwmeester (fractured ankle) in training camp created an opportunity for a young defenseman to make the roster for opening night, and Dunn seized it.
"I had a good camp, a good summer, I put in a lot of work. The nerves are out of the way now, it's just time to look forward," Dunn said. "I'm looking forward to my first shift, my first game. There's still a lot to learn, but I'm happy to be part of the team."
Dunn, who was paired with Robert Bortuzzo in today's morning skate, edged out defenseman Jake Walman for the open spot.
"His play without the puck was the difference," Yeo said. "Both (Dunn and Walman) had their moments with the puck, and both showed at different times they have some learning to do. Without the puck, 'Dunner' was a little more solid and a little bit more steady and reliable and consistent with that."
The rest of the projected lineup for opening night looks like this:
Vladimir Sobotka - Paul Stastny - Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Dmitrij Jaskin
Magnus Paajarvi - Oskar Sundqvist - Tage Thompson
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Chris Thorburn
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn - Robert Bortuzzo