Training camps in the NHL can be odd. Sometimes there are players that surprise, that emerge from obscurity and open a bunch of eyes, score a bunch of goals in scrimmages and preseason games. But more often than not, players perform pretty much as expected. Teams go into the season with the same roster they anticipated going into camp.
Robby Fabbri will be motivated to break out in 2017-18 as a top offensive threat.
Defense and goaltending may win championships, but scoring is sexy. For the past few seasons, the Blues haven’t been known as one the league’s most productive offenses. Last season, there were only two players that cracked the 20-goal plateau – Vladimir Tarasenko with 39 (duh), and Patrik Berglund with 23 (whuuuuutt).
The Blues easily could have had five or more. Paul Stastny was well on pace to reach 20+, but his season was interrupted by injury. He ended playing 66 games, and scored 18 goals. Jaden Schwartz was just 1 goal shy of 20, with 78 games played. And now ex-Blue David Perron scored 18 goals.
Injuries are the great unknown of any sports season, but barring anything serious, here are my Top 5 candidates to reach at least 20 goals for the 2017-18 season.
- Vladimir Tarasenko – This one’s a no-brainer. Tarasenko is truly an elite forward now. He has 116 goals over the past three seasons, for an average of just under 39.
- Jaden Schwartz – He has two 20+ seasons in his young career, and he’s improving as an all-around player. He went through a 14-game goal-less stretch last year, which hurt his goal totals. Jaden is expected to rebound, as he has a full year between him and his injury-shortened 2015-16 season.
- Robby Fabbri – There is a lot riding on Robby’s year. Blues management and coaching are fully expecting him to A) be heathy; and B) put up numbers as a 2nd-line forward. He will have more opportunity for ice time, considering the loss of David Perron in the Vegas expansion draft. He’s definitely penciled in to the Top 6 forwards.
- Brayden Schenn – I’m really looking forward to watching Schenn play. I was so thrilled on draft night when I read the news of his acquisition from the Flyers. And for Jori Lehtera – addition by subtraction! Seventeen of Schenn’s 25 goals last year came on the power play, so he will no doubt beef up the punch of special teams. Whether he plays at center or wing, he’ll bring a skill upgrade to the top 2 lines.
- Paul Stastny – I think a majority of fans would consider Stastny to be a partial bust as a free agent signing. His numbers here have fallen well short of what he put up in Colorado. But last year was his most productive, even with injuries. He was on pace for cracking 20, and now playing in a contract year, he’ll be motivated to earn his next contract.
I think we’ll see an offensive improvement in 2017-18. I can’t wait for hockey to start again, and to see what kind of numbers these 5 will put up. But what do you think? Any season always brings its own surprises.
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Defenseman Nate Prosser played for the Minnesota Wild
I’d heard the name, but I didn’t know much about the Blues most recent signing, defenseman Nate Prosser. So I looked up his career stats on NHL.com. It won’t wow anyone. His career-high point total is 12 in 2011-12 season. He hasn’t played more than 63 games in a season. So it seems he’s a career 7th blueliner on a team that already has prospects Jordan Schmaltz, Jake Walman, and Vince Dunn hoping to crack the lineup this year.
He does provide depth, and that’s always useful. Lower pairing defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson are prone to injuries, so Prosser does provide insurance against that.
An added benefit is his familiarity with coach Mike Yeo. Prosser played formerly for the Minnesota Wild.
My own hope, though, is that Schmaltz and/or Walman and Dunn will get opportunities to continue their professional development with the NHL club.
Thanks for reading.