(Photo Credit: NHL.com)
With the trade deadline looming and eventually passing, the St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong decided to pass on making a “hockey trade” for a top-six forward that has term past the 2017-2018 season. Why? Well, the Blues are one of few organizations with four high-end prospects, known as the “Big Four”, in their organization that will challenge for roster spots in the next year. The “Big Four” consists of Tage Thompson, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Klim Kostin. Because of this, the Blues general manager was not interested in selling a high-end prospect to add to a group of forwards that needs more improvement than just one player. This decision was viewed as a very passive one by many Blues fans, but in the end, it will hopefully turn out to be a very rational one. Here is a ranking and breakdown of each member of the “Big Four”.
NHL Comparison: Jamie Benn
Tage Thompson is a six feet five, 200 pound forward that has a future in the NHL as a center eventually, but in limited action so far has only seen reps as a winger. The reason for this is to take a little defensive responsibility off of the young forward as he finds his way in the league. Thompson spent two seasons at the University of Connecticut where he was nearly a point per game caliber player. The former 2016 1st round pick of the Blues also played a role in winning the gold medal in the 2016 World Junior Championships by tallying five points in seven games. Blues fans have seen flashes of Thompson’s unique combination of size, skill, and shot that should project very well to the NHL eventually, but as previously mentioned he is still trying to find his way in the league. He has posted a mere six points in 28 games to go along with a minus 10 defensive rating in his rookie campaign. Once Thompson gains more experience in the league and puts on some weight, he should be set up to play in the top six of this organization regularly.
NHL Comparison: Patrice Bergeron
Robert Thomas is the newest of the Blues crop of first-round picks as he was selected 20th overall in this past year’s draft. Despite being the youngest of the “Big Four”, Thomas is widely considered to have the highest floor of any of the other prospects and projects to be a first or second line center in the NHL eventually. The St. Louis Blues value Thomas so highly that Doug Armstrong was telling teams at the trade deadline that he was “untouchable”. At six feet tall and 188 pounds, Robert Thomas is the prototypical high-end two-way center that many organizations desire to have. He uses his speed and outstanding playmaking abilities to make the players around him better. He is also known to have a tremendously high hockey IQ, his biggest asset, that assists him in his supreme defensive play in his own zone. In the Ontario Hockey League this season, Thomas has compiled 71 points in 41 games to go along with a plus 18 defensive rating. If he can continue to improve on his offensive abilities, Thomas will play a big role up the middle for the St. Louis Blues for a long time.
NHL Comparison: Mitch Marner
When Blues GM Doug Armstrong decided to trade Brian Elliott at the 2016 NHL draft, he knew why he was doing it. With the 35th overall pick in the early second round, he selected the 6 feet tall 177 pound forward Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou is probably the most known name of the “Big Four” due to his elite offensive production over the last two seasons in the OHL for the Sarnia Sting. Over the past two seasons, Kyrou has accumulated 200 points in 119 games and a combined plus 32 defensive rating. Kyrou is a game breaker on the offensive side of the puck due to his unmatched skating ability and unbelievable playmaking abilities. He can truly change a shift by just stepping on the ice because of the offensive traits he possesses. On the defensive side of the puck, he is a smart player in his own zone that uses his quickness to his advantage. Kyrou is not a liability in his own zone, which is usually a knock smaller players with game-breaking offensive potential. If Kyrou’s skills and size can translate to the NHL game, the league should be put on notice because he could transform into one of the game’s best skaters and playmakers whether that be as a top line center or winger.
NHL Comparison: Alexander Radulov
Blues GM Doug Armstrong appeared to repeat his NHL Draft trade magic by sending Ryan Reaves to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 31st overall pick. With that pick, the Blues selected the six feet three 212 pound forward Klim Kostin. Kostin was widely considered to be a top 10 pick in the 2017 draft, but a season-ending shoulder injury forced GM’s to become cautious of the young forward’s health status. Because of that, Armstrong was able to select the top 10 talent with the last pick of the first round. Kostin possesses good skating ability, is strong on the puck due to his size, and has an above average shot to go with his solid playmaking abilities. Overall, his offensive talent is what had NHL GM’s salivating over his game. Defensively, he is known to be a little inconsistent in his own zone and at times can be a liability. Kostin shows flashes of being a decent defender in the defensive zone, but most of the time he struggles. His defensive zone struggles hold him back from being a truly complete NHL winger, but his offensive capabilities more than make up for it. Another concern about Kostin is if his overall game will transition well from an international sheet of ice to the smaller, North American sheet of ice. Kostin only has 19 points in 51 games and a minus 6 defensive rating for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL this season, but this is a bit misleading. His minutes are being taken by Colorado Avalanche prospects since it is their AHL team so he is not being given the same chance to develop as other prospects on his team. If his skills can translate, Kostin will be a first or second line goal scorer in the NHL for a long time.
Ranking of the “Big Four”
- Robert Thomas
- Jordan Kyrou
- Klim Kostin
- Tage Thompson
Summary of the “Big Four”
The rankings displayed above are of course subject to change, but as of right now this is the way that I see it. Thomas’ ability to play a strong, two-way game at the center position gives him the nod as the top prospect. Jordan Kyrou’s game-breaking offensive potential gives him the edge over Kostin and Thompson. Ranking Kostin and Thompson was like splitting hairs, but Kostin takes the cake in this one due to his high offensive potential. This is not to say that Thompson does not have offensive potential, but Kostin’s offensive potential could model that of another Russian player on the Blues roster already (91). There is no guarantee that all four of these prospects will pan out for the Blues organization, as not all do as Blues fans know, but the future looks very bright if these “Big Four” prospects can tap into their potential and become the future core of the organization.