On the heels of the Blues’ first Stanley Cup title in franchise history, the team’s prospects camp had a different feel to it.
For one, with the Blues’ days at the IceZone in Hazelwood over, all camp activities took place on the ice at Enterprise Center — ice that still features the Stanley Cup Final 2019 logo at each blue line.
(The Blues’ new practice complex in Maryland Heights is scheduled to open in September.)
For another, this camp lacked some of the star power of recent ones, which included the likes of Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Ville Husso. That’s not to say there weren’t players on the ice this week who won’t be wearing Blues jerseys in a couple of years.
“We’re pretty impressed with almost every one of the guys we’ve had out,” Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said. “I don’t think there’s any disappointments. We’ve obviously gone through a great run here, so they get to experience a little bit of the excitement that’s gone through the city.
“Hopefully, there’s a big carrot dangling at the end so they can be part of it one day.”
The Blues’ top prospects in attendance shined in Friday night’s camp-ending scrimmage. Klim Kostin, a first-round draft pick in 2017, scored twice for the White squad in its 9-5 victory over the Blue. Dominik Bokk, a first-round pick in 2018, scored twice for the Blue squad.
“As you see out here, he’s got the agility,” Taylor said of Bokk. “He’s got speed. He’s got a good shot. He thinks the game. He can score. Now, it’s getting him to understand that it’s a tough and physical game.”
Like most prospects, Bokk needs to get a little stronger.
After Friday’s scrimmage before a crowd of about 3,500, the Plager Cup was presented to the victorious White squad by — who else? — Blues icon Bobby Plager.
Nikita Alexandrov, a second-round pick in last weekend’s draft and the Blues’ first selection, also scored for the Blue squad, as did one of the organization’s rising prospects — Alexey Toropchenko, a 2017 draft pick.
Also scoring for the White was defenseman Scott Perunovich, a second-round pick in 2018.
“We hope he’s Torey Krug,” Taylor said, referring to the puck-moving defenseman of the Boston Bruins. “The size is the first thing. But his skating ability, the way he thinks the game, he competes. We see that he’s a real good puck-moving defenseman.”
Of the 32 players participating in the four-day camp, about half were draft picks and about half were free agents brought in from the college or junior hockey ranks.
One of those college free agents, Pat Curry of Boston University, scored twice for the White squad Friday.
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
After two years with San Antonio, Kostin could push for a Blues roster spot in September. Toropchenko will make the jump from junior hockey (Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League) to San Antonio and the minor leagues.
But all of the other Blues draft picks in attendance this week will either be heading back to college, junior hockey or lesser pro leagues overseas. Bokk, for example, is heading back to Sweden, where he plays for the Vaxjo Lakers professional team.
“Bokk is in a good situation,” Taylor said. “He’s going to play in the Swedish Elite Men’s League. It’s a good environment. It’s one he’s comfortable with. He played in it last year, and it’s a very comparable league to the AHL.
“It’s not quite the AHL, but rather than playing junior hockey he’s in that elite league.”
Perunovich will attempt to win his third consecutive NCAA Division I title at Minnesota-Duluth. Hugh McGing, a small, elusive forward, is returning to college at Western Michigan. He was a fifth-round pick in 2018.
“Perunovich didn’t feel he had the year (in 2018-19) as he had the prior year,” Taylor said. “So he wanted to give himself another year to feel real comfortable when he came out. He understands the big step it is for the adjustment (to pro hockey).
“McGing, his team should be real good. So both those kids were looking to have long runs for their college careers and then hopefully in the spring (of 2020) they’ll be wearing Blues uniforms.”