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Season Preview

Season Preview: St. Louis Blues

Younger players Jake Allen, Dmitrij Jaskin expected to grow into larger roles

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent
At a glance

2015-16 record: 49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd in Central Division, 2nd in Western Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Defeated Chicago Blackhawks in seven games in Western Conference First Round; defeated Dallas Stars in seven games in second round; lost to San Jose Sharks in six games in conference final

Additions: F: David Perron, Nail Yakupov; G: Carter Hutton

Subtractions: F: David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott; G: Brian Elliott, Anders Nilsson

 

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Alexander Steen -- Paul Stastny -- Vladimir Tarasenko

David Perron -- Jori Lehtera -- Robby Fabbri

Dmitrij Jaskin -- Patrik Berglund -- Nail Yakupov

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Ty Rattie  

Magnus Paajarvi

Defensemen

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Carl Gunnarsson -- Colton Parayko

Robert Bortuzzo

Goalies

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Pheonix Copley

Video: STL@WSH: Jaskin uses quick hands for slick PPG

The St. Louis Blues have a tough act to follow this season.

After winning a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 2012, they advanced to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001, bringing lofty expectations.

The Blues enter this season without a number of key veterans who were mainstays in the locker room. That includes center David Backes, who signed with the Boston Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after 10 seasons with the Blues, the past five as captain. Goaltender Brian Elliott, with the Blues since 2011, was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24, making Jake Allen the clear No. 1. Free agency also saw the departures of right wing Troy Brouwer (Flames) and center Steve Ott (Detroit Red Wings).

In all, St. Louis lost 2,458 games of NHL experience.

Despite the departures, the Blues are confident they can keep pace in the Western Conference. But they'll have to do so with a younger group, among them forwards Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin, who each likely will receive a bigger role this season.

Allen, 26, also will get a bigger role. He had NHL career bests in games played (47), wins (26), save percentage (.920) and shutouts (six) last season before signing a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension July 1.

Jaden Schwartz, 24, also signed a long-term contract (five years, $26.75 million). He had back-to-back seasons of 25 or more goals before a fractured ankle limited him to eight in 33 games last season. He'll miss the start of the season because of an injury to his left elbow sustained Sept. 29.

Forward Robby Fabbri, the 21st pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, will look to build on strong numbers as a rookie last season, when he had 18 goals and 19 assists in 72 regular-season games, as well as 15 points in 20 playoff games.

The Blues added forward David Perron as a free agent and traded for forward Nail Yakupov, the No.1 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Perron played his first six NHL seasons with the Blues and returns after splitting last season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks. Yakupov played four seasons for Edmonton and had an NHL career-low 23 points in 60 games last season.

They join a veteran group up front that includes left wing Alexander Steen, who signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension Sept. 23, center Paul Stastny, who had 49 points in 64 games, and Vladimir Tarasenko, whose 40 goals and 76 points led the Blues.

Alex Pietrangelo, who has replaced Backes as captain, and Kevin Shattenkirk, the subject of trade speculation in the offseason, anchor a defense that will be as strong as ever and made no significant changes.

The Blues also signed free agent goalie Carter Hutton, who was the backup for the Nashville Predators for the past three seasons.

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Fabbri and defenseman Colton Parayko lead a cast of younger players who build off the success they had last season, and Allen succeeds as the No. 1 goaltender.

Video: CHI@STL, Gm7: Parayko rings it in off the post 

 
Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Lack of depth at forward if there's a recurrence of the injury issues from last season. The departures of Backes, Brouwer and Elliott leave the Blues shorter on experience, and if the younger players don't perform up to expectations, St. Louis could fail to secure a playoff berth.

 

Breakout candidate

Jori Lehtera. This will be the 28-year-old center's third NHL season. He had 14 goals and 30 assists in 75 games in 2014-15, his first season, but his numbers dipped to nine goals and 25 assists in 79 games last season. With Backes' departure, he'll be the No. 2 center behind Stastny.

 

On the hot seat

Patrik Berglund. In the final season of his three-year contract, Berglund, 28, will be given a chance to play center, his natural position, after bouncing between center and left wing the past two seasons. Recovery from offseason shoulder surgery limited Berglund to 42 games last season, when he had 10 goals and five assists. The Blues will need a level of production closer to the 22 goals and 30 assists he had in 2010-11.

 

Trophy candidates

Tarasenko (Hart, Richard); Steen (Selke); Pietrangelo (Norris)

 

Quotable

"I'm really looking forward to [the season]. It's an opportunity to obviously increase my game and just knowing that they have the confidence in the young guys to be a part of that is extremely special. I think if you talk to any of the young guys, we're more than ready to embrace the role and show that we're ready. I'm excited. It's going to be another great year." -- defenseman Colton Parayko

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