The St. Louis Blues continue to have high expectations despite transitioning to a younger, faster team.
Their opening night roster likely will include at least 10 players 25 years old or younger, and those players will have an impact on the success of the immediate and long-term future of the Blues.
1. Will the young players make an impact?
The return of forward Robby Fabbri, 21, who had 29 points in 51 games before tearing his left ACL on Feb. 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, will provide a scoring boost. Forwards Ivan Barbashev, 21, Dmitrij Jaskin, 24, Zach Sanford, 22, and Oskar Sundqvist, 23, and defensemen Colton Parayko, 24, Joel Edmundson, 24, and Jordan Schmaltz, 23, will get important roles to complement young but veteran players Vladimir Tarasenko, 25, Jaden Schwartz, 25, and newly acquired Brayden Schenn, 26.
"I think this game is built with speed, I think it's built with skill, I think that it's built with youth, and I think it's transcending," general manager Doug Armstrong said.
2. Can Jake Allen elevate his game to the next level?
Allen went 16-7-2 with a .938 save percentage in 25 games after Mike Yeo took over as coach on Feb. 1 and was a big reason the Blues were able to eliminate the Minnesota Wild in five games in the Western Conference First Round, going 4-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in the series. He didn't play poorly in the second round, but St. Louis lost to the Nashville Predators in six games.
It's up to Allen, who will work with new goaltending coach David Alexander, to elevate his game following a season when he had an NHL career-high 33 wins.
"I need to make a case for myself," Allen said. "I still want to get better every year. I want to be one of the best in the League. I still got a ways to go, but I feel like every season, when I've looked back on it, I've gotten better in different ways. It's my objective."
3. Will Brayden Schenn have a bigger role in St. Louis?
The Blues acquired Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23 for center Jori Lehtera and a first-round NHL Draft pick in 2017 and 2018. Yeo will give Schenn, who had 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 79 games last season, a chance to play center on one of the top two lines.
"We want to really give him a good chance there," Yeo said. "That's where he feels most comfortable, that's his natural position, so we definitely want to give him a real good look there at training camp."
Schenn played mostly wing for the Flyers, who had a plethora of centers last season. He thrived on the power play, scoring 17 goals to tie Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov for the League lead, but wants to be a more well-rounded player.
"The 5-on-5 numbers obviously need to rise and I'm going to do everything possible to do that," Schenn said. "... I think getting in the middle and playing a natural position for me should help that."