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Thomas healing from ankle injury, eager to play for Blues this season

Forward prospect kept off ice during development camp, wants NHL job

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Robert Thomas, who the St. Louis Blues have big plans for this season, will have to wait until training camp in September to show the skills that made him a first-round pick (No. 20) in the 2017 NHL Draft.

The Blues are being cautious with the 19-year-old forward prospect, who injured his ankle for Hamilton in the Ontario Hockey League championship series against Sault Ste. Marie.

He was kept off the ice during Blues development camp, which concluded July 1. But they plan to give him every opportunity to earn an NHL roster spot this season.

"We're going to be very careful with [Thomas]," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said. "Obviously he's one of our top prospects, and at the end of the day we want him ready to play in September and October for the St. Louis Blues."

Thomas said, "Obviously you want to be on the ice, but it's good to take it slow. You've just got to be ready for main camp."

Thomas is in a class of prospects the Blues have ranked at the top of their board, along with forward Jordan Kyrou, a second-round pick (No. 35) in the 2016 NHL Draft, and forward Klim Kostin, a first-round selection (No. 31) in 2017.

Thomas managed to play through his ankle injury and finished the OHL playoffs with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 21 games, winning the Wayne Gretzky '99' Award as OHL playoff MVP. He had three points (two goals, one assist) in four games during the Memorial Cup.

Thomas' OHL season included being acquired by Hamilton in a trade with London on Jan. 8. He finished the regular season with 75 points (24 goals, 51 assists) in 49 games, including 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) in 22 games with Hamilton.

He also had had six points (one goal, five assists) in seven games to help Canada win the gold medal at the the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"It was definitely a long, eventful year, with the World Juniors and then with the trade and the OHL championship," Thomas said. "So it was a lot of fun and it was a great experience for me. I got to experience a lot of things I hadn't before and learn from that. So it was a lot of fun this year."

Because of his injury, Thomas has a much different mindset this summer than he did in his first development camp last year. But his goal remains the same.

"I think for me, I've got to look at it as I've still got a lot of work to do," he said. "I've still got to be as prepared as I can coming into camp. Nothing's given, obviously. So I've got to be ready to compete for a spot in camp and have a good camp."

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