The 2016-17 Blues had, for the first half of the season, been free of the injury bug. That’s somewhat unusual, as teams routinely deal with injuries every season. So it’s no surprise that it caught up to the Blues.Forwards Kyle Brodziak and Robby Fabbri are out for the rest of the year. And their absence has opened up space for a couple of young players who hope they can impress new coach Mike Yeo and GM Doug Armstrong.
The first is forward Kenny Agostino. Prior to being called up from the Chicago Wolves, he led the entire American Hockey League in points (60 in 48 games played). In his first game with the Blues, he scored a goal and led the team in shots. He’s a fast, high-energy player, and seems to be a good fit on the club so far. He stood out in training camp, but there simply was no room on the roster for him when the season opened.
The second player with an opportunity to impress is Magnus Paajarvi (pictured). The winger could be considered a veteran at this point, as this is his 7th season. I think that many Blues fans think of him as a young player (which he is, at 25) because he hasn’t made a lot of progress in the Blues lineup. His team high games played is just 55, and his goal total was 6.
Agostino and Paajarvi could be considered “4A” players, to coin a baseball term.Those are players that excel at the AAA level, which is what the AHL is, but can’t quite put it together at the major league level. But both players have an opportunity to do just that, this year with the Blues. Why? Primarily because both will see a good amount of playing time, filling in for injured forwards. Secondly, because Mike Yeo has made tweaks to the playing style of the team to allow for a more open style of play. That should benefit both Agostino and Paajarvi, who are two of the fastest skaters on the team. Further, the Blues coach and GM will likely want to see if they have a real future with the big club, considering that C Patrik Berglund could be leaving as a free agent after the season.
If Agostino and Paajarvi play well and produce offensively in the last 20 or so games of the regular season, they could slot in for next year as capable 3rd-line forwards. The third line, so often this year, has failed to produce regular offense, shuffling various forwards in and out of that line.
I, and a lot of other Blues fans, will be watching these guys with cautious hope that they can cement themselves as regular NHL players for the Blues in the future.
Thanks for reading.