As playoff excitement slowly wears off on St. Louis hockey fans, its replaced by the eerie silence of the St. Louis Mills Mall. A once bustling shopping center in its heyday, it now contains two stores, mall walkers, and around 200 Blues fans brimming with anticipation as they examine and critique the future of their team.
Practice was delayed by an hour due to off ice training regimens taking longer than expected, but once they were underway a few things were evident; this unit is close knit and highly skilled.
Unfortunately, popular prospect among the “Big Four”, Robert Thomas, sat out as a precautionary measure due to an ankle injury he sustained in the OHL playoffs. I expect him to skate later on in the week, although the team said there’s no word how long they’ll keep him iced.
However, of those who did participate, notable performances were on display from Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin, Erik Foley, Dominik Bokk, and Tanner Kaspick.
After his impressive campaign with the Sarnia Sting this season, expectations for Kyrou have risen in stature, this includes his own. Entering his third prospect camp, he feels this year is different and it certainly seems so. All the things you’ve heard about the 20 year olds game are true, but you don’t fully understand the speed at which he plays until you see it in person.
Kyrou’s best showing was the 3v3 scrimmage segment were he took full advantage of the open ice by netting two beautiful breakaway goals. His defensive stick still needs attention, but has come along way from where it was last year and his positioning has improved as well. Playing alongside his close friend Robert Thomas, look for highlight reel goals scored when they’re on the same line this camp.
Kostin, who was dealing with a shoulder injury during his last prospect camp, looks like a completely different player. The tentative skater we saw last year has been replaced with one with reckless abandon. Strong on the puck, drives to the gritty areas, heavy shot, quick, agile skater, and can hold his own defensively.
Although he’s still raw and could use another year or two in the AHL under his belt, it’s easy to see why the Blues were so excited that he fell to them at #31 in last year’s draft.
When the Blues acquired Erik Foley in the Paul Stastny trade in February, John Buccigross called him a “Bull in a China shop” and Foley showed us why. His puck cycling, back checking, and hands really impressed me today, however he show some trouble with puck security. Much like Soshnikov, Foley has zero concern for his own safety when playing hockey. His game is centered around top speed skating, positioning himself in the crease, and physicality. Modeling his game after Evander Kane, Foley fires a quick release and slick mitts, but tap ins and deflections are his bread and butter.
Dominik Bokk, taken with the 29th pick the Blues received in the Stastny trade, is a natural goal scorer that centers his game around his quick feet, great hands, and dangerous shot. Bokk lit the lamp in the shooting drills as well as sliding a filthy little wraparound past the netminder in the 4v4 session. Could do well to add on some weight this offseason as well as his conditioning, but the “Deutschland Dangler” could prove to be a lethal asset of the Blues offense in 2-3 years.
Last, but certainly not least, if Tanner Kaspick wasn’t on the coaches radar as a pushing for a roster spot, he is now. No player scored more goals today than Kaspick did, including a highlight reel goal in scrimmage where he undressed both defenders and the goalie on his way to burying the biscuit. In the goaltending drills, where he aided three other prospects in peppering the goalie with shots, he scored five times while the other three collectively scored once.
Arguably the best hands in this young core, (save Thomas) Kaspick has impressed Blues coaches enough to sign him to a three year entry level contract which means he’ll be playing with their AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage next season. It’s too soon to tell, but Kaspick is my sleeper pick to spend time with the Blues next season. Not necessarily making opening night roster, but in the event of an injury I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him the nod.