(The Blues’ Prospect Camp has come and gone, and for three out of four days, I enjoyed my time at Ice Zone in Hazelwood, MO. Here is my quick scouting report on the Blues’ prospective forwards. We all have cause to rejoice: our future is bright.
Please note: my observations may differ from others, based on what I saw. Feel free to disagree as you see fit!)
18 Bokk, Dominik RW
One of the best players in the Draft available to the Blues was Bokk, and I can see why they were so hot about him: he has good puck control, including kicking the puck back and forth between his blade and his skates. He is fantastic in the corners, and his hands are soft. At one point, between drills, he passed a puck back and forth between his teammates’ skates without them even noticing. I can see why he’s called another “Deutchland Dangler”, because wow, his ability to weave the puck in and around other players’ sticks is astounding. So much potential here! What I love is he really gives the game all he’s got. He has tremendous heart, and great character. He is a bit of a puckhound as well, because he’s very quick, and goes after what he wants; at the end of the tag exercise on the fourth day, he was the undisputed winner with ten tags. He is quick and agile, makes very good decisions on the ice. One of his biggest areas of improvement would be his defensive footwork, including his ability to skate backwards. He was not quite as fast, and not quite as agile, when required to skate backwards and play defensively.
33 Kyrou, Jordan C
Throw this guy in the pros already! His control, his strength and his velocity on his shots is incredible. What struck me the most is how patient Kyrou is, and his poise. He not only waits for the puck or to make a play, but his balance and out-of-the-box thinking in making some of the most creative plays is bar none the best I have seen in a young player in a long time. He is an excellent playmaker through traffic. What I love about Kyrou is his efficiency; when he makes a move, it is exact, and it is accurate, but it is also effortless. He not only makes plays, but he makes them in ways that uses the most out of as little energy as possible, saving himself for longer shifts and grit work later on. He’s less likely to be gassed after he leaves the ice. That is a skill that elite players learn, and learn in stages from peewee to pros, and may not fully learn until well into the pros. For Kyrou to have already learned it shows how good he truly is. The only thing I can think of for Kyrou to improve on is elevating his play to match the pro level, and the only way for him to do that is to be there. Improve on the mechanics, get some games under his belt, and he will set himself up to succeed. There’s nothing more he can learn at the lower league levels; he needs to be in the pros, either with the Rampage, or with the Blues.
36 Thomas, Robert C
Inconclusive, and a huge disappointment not to watch him. Thomas was injured, and I was not able to see him play.
37 Kostin, Klim C/W
Kostin is a big body, very strong power forward, who is relentless in keeping possession of the puck. He always seems to set himself up in the right place, at the right time, to make the goals he needs to make. His slapshot is a rocket, and shook the glass multiple times. I was sitting about twenty feet from where he was playing, and I’m pretty sure I felt the puck ricochet! Kostin is a good skater, and he does not let up defensively against some of the more finessed skaters, like Jordan Kyrou and Erik Foley. He has the discipline and the talent to make the NHL roster, but I believe Kostin’s 2018-2019 season should take place in the Rampage for the majority. Out of all the forwards I looked at, and were able to get a good read on, he was the hardest to analyze. I believe that, while individually he is good, he’s not quite there yet. There are still a few things that he needs to polish and clean up first. Also, I believe having the benefit of playing with teammates on the same team will elevate Kostin’s play even more, and bring him to the top of the elite category. Last year, with the lack of a true AHL team to solidify gameplay and teach Kostin specific methodologies closer to what the Blues expect, Kostin was one of the few affected in his growth as a player. I think he needs to be challenged more, pushed and pulled more, in areas where he would not be comfortable in, in order to unlock his full potential. I believe the Blues, and the hockey community in general, have not seen Kostin’s ceiling yet, or even have a good gauge on where it is. It’s up to him to show us what he can do.
51 Stevens, Nolan C
I can’t say enough good things about Stevens. Like Erik Foley, he would be a forward that I could see as a call up if the Blues are injured. Stevens has a very sweet wrist shot, and his hockey sense is fantastic. A definite playmaker, he instinctively knows where his teammates will be, and how to set them up perfectly for a shot on goal. He naturally is able to make creative moves on the fly, and reacts well to his surroundings. A standout strength for him is his “intentionality”; his movements are exact and efficient, including his sharp skating. He never goes anywhere without a purpose, and knowing what his role is. He’s an incredible puck handler, as well as an incredible skater. Like local talent Michael Davies, in one of the figure eight exercises, in which he had to skate in figure eights both backwards and forwards, with and without a puck, on one foot or both feet, he rarely deviated outside of the lines. His transitions in his crossovers were very smooth. All the mechanics are there, but he needs to hone them a bit better. His faceoff game needs work, and that will only come with playing in actual games. Putting him on a line with Dominik Bokk, and Foley, will set Stevens up for success, once all three players are eligible for the Rampage.
52 Foley, Erik LW
I am very happy Winnipeg let Foley go to come here, because he is definitely a standout, and has so much potential. Out of most of the prospective forwards, I can see Foley being one of the few worthy of a call up, if the Blues have any injuries. He could go as soon as this year, if need be. Foley’s hands are excellent; his passing and deking skills when the puck is on his stick are smooth. He has a lot of finesse to his game, including making backhanded shots or creating opportunities in front of or behind the net. One of his standout strengths is his ability to elevate the puck. Apart from Jordan Kyrou, I saw more shots elevated by Foley than any of the other forwards, and he’s a natural saucer passer. As shown in the 2018 NHL All-Star skills challenge, this is not an easy area to learn, let alone be good at! Foley’s mechanics are in good working order, but he needs to hone them a little bit more. Time and experience at a higher level of play will elevate his game, especially playing on the same line as Nolan Stevens and Dominik Bokk (when Bokk is eligible for the Rampage). Those three will learn from each other, and make each other better. Put him on a line with Kyrou and Stevens? That will do for the Rampage as early as next year, and that line will be dominant.
53 Poganski, Austin RW
Poganski’s strengths are his footwork and his ability to hound the puck. He is relentless, and he is very good at getting himself open to both receive and execute passes. He fearlessly goes into traffic often. His shot is good, but it could use better accuracy. Like some of his other teammates, quite a few of his shots went wide. I want to see more of him in the next prospect camp, as he has the potential to be someone solid in the right wing position. With everything going on, I was not able to focus on him as much as I wanted to.
56 McGing, Hugh C
What’s not to love about McGing? This kid wow’ed me so much, I wrote an entire article about him, and I believe he has so much more potential than the Blues even thought when they drafted him. He has speed, a quick wrist shot, is good on his edges, and has an uncanny sense of knowing exactly where to be, who is around him, and where the puck is. He made several impressive behind the back passes, in traffic, to a rushing teammate behind him, and set them up in prime real estate to shoot the puck in the net. That hockey sense cannot always be taught, and he’s got it in spades. McGing needs to bulk up to compensate for his slight frame. In his case, his lower body is the key moreso than his upper body. If he gets faster, that’s a plus. What he really needs is more endurance to stay out for longer shifts. I noticed several times, he came in for a line change quicker than anyone else on his line.
58 Krag, Nikolaj C/LW
Krag thrives in the corners. He is a solid player, with a good release on his shot, but he needs to work on his puck control. Unfortunately, I wish I saw more of Krag during camp. I was not able to completely focus on him to give him a fair assessment.
59 LaFerriere, Mathias C
LaFerriere is one of the most spatially aware skaters that I saw. He has very good instincts of where the puck is, where it needs to be, and where someone will be in order to pass it to them. He is a very, very good pest; many times, I saw him strip pucks away from other players easily. He developed a chemistry with local talent Ruschhoff, and they became one of my favorite duos. He has a very strong shot. His fundamentals need to be sharpened and polished a bit, but all in all, LaFerriere is someone to watch for.
65 Toropchenko, Alexey RW
Ah, Torpedo. This kid has one heck of a wrist shot! Very quick release to it, effortless, very smooth and fast. His passing skills are some of the best on the ice, not only in directly passing the puck to another player, but in leaving the puck for someone to pick up behind him. He is a relentless puckhound, and he makes a lot of top notch plays on pure instinct, leading to some very creative plays. He is very finessed, and very fast. And when I say fast? I mean FAST. Puck possession is the way to go with him when it comes to improvements. Many times, he was bumped off the puck after making a few creative moves, which lead to the opposing team taking it off his hands.
83 Kaspick, Tanner C
Kaspick’s hands are smooth as butter; his deking ability around people is astounding. He also has full puck control when he has it on the tape. Very rarely can anyone strip him of it, unless they bump him off of it. He can also FLY; he was one of the fastest skaters on the ice. He is a very systematic player as well. He executes plays smoothly, efficiently, and with deadly accuracy. His shot was very smooth. I would love to see him work on his shooting accuracy. Many of his shots went wide, and with a bit more practice, that quick shot will be invisible through traffic.
86 Helt, Filip LW
Helt uses the boards to move the puck well. His skating is fast and agile, but a standout strength is his ability to skate backwards. Out of the majority of the forwards that I saw, Helt was one of the most natural backwards skaters, and his defense work in the defensive zone will need very few touch-ups. Helt has a knack for tipping pucks in, and he is a great passer. His ability to dish the puck to his teammates is precise and quick. When he shoots the puck, he has an easy, swift release. An area to work on for him would be working on the chemistry between his linemates, such as his timing in his passes. Many times, he was able to dish the puck to a linemate swiftly, but the pass was either too soon or too late. Otherwise, it would have been right on the tape, ready to go.