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O'Reilly says Blues 'have all the tools' to compete

Center, acquired in July 1 trade, hopes to help St. Louis return to playoffs after missing them last season

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan O'Reilly believes the pieces are in place for the St. Louis Blues to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify last season for the first time since 2010-11.

"We've got all the tools," O'Reilly said Sunday at Ice Breaker 2018, when the Blues unveiled their heritage jersey.

O'Reilly, 27, was traded to the Blues by the Buffalo Sabres on July 1 for forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

 

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O'Reilly was a top-line center with the Sabres last season and will remain in that role. He is expected to help the Blues on special teams, where they struggled last season; the power play ranked 30th in the NHL (15.4 percent) and the penalty kill was 18th (79.7 percent). O'Reilly tied for third in the NHL with 15 power-play goals, and he was second in face-off winning percentage (59.98 percent; Antoine Vermette, 60.00) among players to take at least 100 face-offs, setting an NHL career-high.

"That's something I take pride in," O'Reilly said. "I want to be that guy that's used in all situations wherever [coach Mike Yeo] needs and whatever the game calls for. That's the player I want to be. Obviously knowing Mike for a bit now (playing with Canada at the 2017 and 2018 IIHF World Championship), having a relationship already with him makes this transition a lot easier. I think it's something that when we start the season, we can jump right in and there's not that kind of feeling each other out. We know what we both like and let's go to work."

O'Reilly had 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) in 81 games last season and will complement a center group which includes Brayden Schenn and free agent acquisition Tyler Bozak, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract on July 1.

Video: Breaking down a busy offseason for the Blues

"[O'Reilly is] dominant in the face-off circle and he's a guy that's extremely effective in all areas of the ice," Yeo said. "Defensively, you can match him up against any of the top players in the League. Offensively, he can contribute and play with the top players in the League and obviously both sides of special teams, he's going to factor very heavily into as well. Adding a player like that is not an easy thing to do, and obviously hat's off to [general manager Doug Armstrong] for doing that.

"These are guys that have played in big minutes, big roles with their groups. ... We're adding players that aren't going to just come and get sprinkled in, we're adding guys that can have a really strong impact in the game both on the 5-on-5 and the special teams."

O'Reilly, who has 442 points (155 goals, 267 assists) and has won 55.1 percent of his face-offs in nine seasons with the Sabres and Colorado Avalanche, is expected to play on the first line with Vladimir Tarasenko to begin the season, Yeo recently told NHL.com.

"I'm excited and hoping to get the opportunity," O'Reilly said. "He's one of the most elite scorers in the game. Playing against him, seeing what he does, the way he shoots the puck and his sense out there, just a dangerous hockey player. You've always got to be aware of what he's doing on the ice at all times.

"To be playing with him, being on the same team with him, getting to see that firsthand, I hope to be setting him up and working hand in hand with him."

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