The saying “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get” applies very well to hockey prospects. The St. Louis Blues showed it off at the 2022 Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
The Blues have often sent a team to Michigan for this annual review of team draft picks and unsigned players on a tryout. The results were as high and low as the game of those involved.
The Blues have “won” a few tournaments in the past. They also ended a bit badly too and that’s more what we got in 2022.
St. Louis ended up going 1-2-0 in its three games in those intersquad matchups. However, it wasn’t the losses themselves that were embarrassing, but the way it happened.
All three games were blowouts. The Blues took their only 8-3 victory and then were destroyed by a combined score of 14-2 – split evenly in two 7-1 defeats – in the other two games.
The victory was sandwiched by the two disappointing projections. However, that’s what you get from guys learning to change the way they play.
Most of these guys are 18 or 19, with a few exceptions. Apart from a few guys with professional experience in Europe, almost everyone involved in Traverse City learns a more professional style after playing as a junior.
Many fans wonder what the difference is. That’s pretty big considering almost everyone who was drafted was a giant fish in a small pond and now has to find a new role.
The number of guys who can go on to be a top player in the NHL is relatively small, so they have to learn to do things that aren’t expected of them in some cases. A guy who’s been a top winger his whole life might not always know how to backcheck 100% or a center might need to learn not to make certain passes when everyone else is as talented as you or more.
The Blues have seen plenty of early mistakes in their three-game outlook. The last one was particularly disappointing.
The outcome of a 7-1 defeat is somewhat intangible. When you take six penalties and the Dallas Stars score on three of them, that’s more of an indicator of where some of those players are.
Talent levels vary, but a lack of maturity and situational awareness is often what leads to penalties at any age. For example, Tyler Tucker can’t take a cross-check penalty 12 seconds after Zachary Bolduc was sent to the box for a high stick. Dallas scored just one goal in that 5-on-3 and subsequent 5-on-4, but you’re not doing your team any favors.
The Blues’ hopes were slightly better in their loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They only took three penalties there, even though all three were in the second period. Perhaps the result of a long change?
Even in victory, the Blues went too much to the box. Maybe the umpires called it too tight, but St. Louis had 11 penalties and 19 violations in total against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Landon Sim, 18, scored the only goal in the first loss. Bolduc got the only goal of the last game. Coincidentally or not, Matt Kessel got the assists on both.
The Blues got tons of goalscorers in their 8-3 win. Sim added two more, Jake Neighbors got on the sheet, Bolduc added his second overall, Kessel hit the back of the net and guest free agent Andrei Bakanov had a hat trick.
On the positive side, it was a very good performance for Sim. He finished with three goals and five points in three games. Not a bad first look for a sixth-round pick.
Bolduc was up and down. He finished with two goals and four points, which is great. He was also minus-3 overall and minus-6 in the team’s two losses. Bolduc himself admitted to not being as involved in all aspects of the opening loss as it should have been.
The neighbors were a bit of a non-factor. Sure, you’d like to see him dominate the guys at this level, but we’ve seen him against pros before and he’s done pretty well. A mere performance of one goal in three games is not too worrying.
Unfortunately, Colten Ellis took a big hit. He was rocked in both losses, allowing nine total goals in two starts and getting shot midway through each. Ellis probably won’t lose any positioning on the depth chart, but he was probably hoping a strong performance could take him up a notch.
In Ellis’ defense, he didn’t get much. Neither will Cranley.
Cranley won the game against the Leafs, but faced 31 shots. He also let a total of eight goals pass, although he may be getting more assists since picking up a win and the other two games were in relief when the team weren’t playing well overall. way.
Kessel looked good offensively. He scored one goal and three points. However, the Blues simply have too many similar players ahead of him for that to have had a significant impact on their plans.
All in all, that’s what it is. You can’t expect perfect performances from a team that was put together about a week ago, playing together for the first time while trying to figure out their individual game.
You feel bad for Ellis getting bombed like this, but it’s hard to tell if he just had the weekend off or if the defense just didn’t show up.
As mentioned, wins and losses aren’t that important to anyone but us, the fans. You would have liked to have had stronger performances though and that just speaks to the inconsistencies of this current group of prospects to win in a blowout and blow out in both losses.
We don’t need to overreact to this particular prospect tournament. A poor showing here doesn’t mean any of these guys won’t be solid pros.
This indicates that some, if not many, are further away than we might have guessed.