The 2019-20 NHL season begins Oct. 2. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the five keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lines for all 31 teams. Today, the St. Louis Blues.
Coach: Craig Berube (second season)
Last season: 45-28-9; third place Central Division, defeated Boston Bruins in Stanley Cup Final
1. Binnington's encore
After entering last season as the fifth goalie on the depth chart, Jordan Binnington went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and five shutouts in 32 regular-season games to help the Blues go from last place in the NHL on Jan. 3 to Stanley Cup champions for the first time in their 51-season history.
Binnington, voted a Calder Trophy finalist for NHL rookie of the year, became the first rookie goalie to win 16 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 16-10 with a 2.46 GAA and .914 save percentage. He signed a two-year, $8.8 million contract on July 13.
Video: Jordan Binnington checks in at No. 8 on the list
2. Faulk's impact
Justin Faulk was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Joel Edmundson, forward prospect Dominik Bokk and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Faulk, who signed a seven-year contract extension after the trade, had 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) and was an NHL career-best plus-9 in 82 games last season. The 27-year-old defenseman can help on the power play (102 of his 258 NHL points are with the man-advantage), but it isn't clear whom he will be paired with.
3. Power play
St. Louis' power play ranked 10th in the regular season (21.1 percent) and was 12th out of 16 teams in the playoffs (16.3 percent). Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues with 12 power-play goals in the regular season, and David Perron (seven) and Ryan O'Reilly (six) were their other players to score more than five. In the playoffs, Tarasenko scored five and the rest of the Blues combined for eight.
Marc Savard was hired as an assistant on July 24 and will run the power play; he had 292 power-play points in 13 NHL seasons from 1997-2011.
Video: SJS@STL, Gm6: Tarasenko roofs PPG from the circle
4. Familiar faces
The roster will be almost identical to the one which won the Stanley Cup last season, with 19 of the 21 skaters who played at least one playoff game returning. In addition to Edmundson, forward Pat Maroon is the other; he signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Aug. 24. That familiarity and chemistry could go a long way in helping the Blues remain successful.
5. Strong start
The Blues won seven of their first 20 games last season (7-10-3) and were in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3 (15-18-4). They went 30-10-5 in their final 45 games to clinch a playoff berth. They know a better start is needed with teams chasing them as the defending champions.
Making the cut
There were a number of young forwards vying for spots in preseason, including Jordan Kyrou and Klim Kostin. Kyrou was recalled by St. Louis in December and scored two points in seven games, but the 21-year-old will get a long look. Kostin will be looking to make his NHL debut this season; the 20-year-old had 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 66 games with San Antonio in the American Hockey League last season.
The Blues are set at defenseman with Faulk and six of their seven starters from last season's playoffs returning (Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn, Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo), but expect Mitch Reinke to be called up at some point after the 23-year-old led American Hockey League rookie defensemen in scoring with 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists).
Most intriguing addition
Faulk will have a week to acclimate with the Blues before their season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 2. The right-shot defenseman was second on the Hurricanes in ice time per game last season (22:25), led their defensemen in power-play ice time per game (2:56), and played 1:43 per game shorthanded. He makes an already talented St. Louis defense even better.
Video: Faulk arrives in STL, meets new teammates
Biggest potential surprise
In addition to scoring touch, Kostin (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) brings size and grit to the lineup, should he make the roster. In the past two seasons in the AHL, he had 174 penalty minutes in 133 games; Edmundson and Maroon led St. Louis with 68 and 64 PIM last season. Kostin was captain for Russia at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he had six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games to help it finish third.
Ready to break through
Robert Thomas had 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 70 regular-season games and six points (one goal, five assists) in 21 playoff games as a rookie last season. The 20-year-old forward averaged 13:04 of ice time per game during the regular season and could play in the top six this season.
Dunn (average draft position: 177.8) made an impact with 35 points in 78 games last season and could compete for a top power-play spot over Pietrangelo or Faulk under Savard. -- Rob Reese
Jaden Schwartz -- Brayden Schenn -- Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford -- Ryan O'Reilly -- David Perron
Sammy Blais -- Tyler Bozak -- Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Alexander Steen
Vince Dunn -- Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester -- Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson -- Justin Faulk