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Blues season preview: Binnington must regain old form

Goalie looks to build on strong playoffs for St. Louis with Cup window still open

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the St. Louis Blues.

Coach: Craig Berube (fifth season)

Last season: 49-22-11; third place in Central Division, lost to Colorado Avalanche in Western Conference Second Round

3 KEYS

1. Binnington back on top

Jordan Binnington is once again the undisputed starter in goal for the St. Louis Blues after they traded Ville Husso to the Detroit Red Wings on July 13. Binnington was excellent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a 1.72 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in six games after a lackluster regular season (18-14-4, 3.13 GAA, .901 save percentage in 37 games). His ability to return to his previous form is crucial for a team that has championship aspirations.

2. Depth on offense

One of the hallmarks of the Blues last season was their depth, with nine 20-goal scorers. They lost one of those players, forward David Perron, who had 57 points (27 goals, 30 assists) in 67 games and signed with the Red Wings as a free agent July 13, and they'll need someone to replace some or all of that production. It's possible it could come from the continued acceleration in development from Jordan Kyrou or Robert Thomas or a prospect like Jake Neighbours or Zachary Bolduc.

3. Centering on Thomas

The Blues made a bet on Thomas, signing the 23-year-old to an eight-year, $65 million contract July 13. Thomas had one season remaining on his current contract and could have become a restricted free agent after this season. The center set NHL career highs in goals (20), assists (57) and points (77) in 72 games last season, and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong called Thomas a centerpiece of the team. Thomas looks to continue his momentum and development as one of the Blues' most important players.

Video: Top 15 Jordan Kyrou Plays from the 2021-22 Season

ROSTER RUNDOWN

Making the cut

With Kyrou likely moving into the top six to take Perron's spot, the Blues have a vacancy at third-line forward. Figuring out who will slot in there will be a focus of training camp, and it could include Neighbours or Bolduc. The third defense pair is also in question. The top two pairs appear locked in, with Nick Leddy, Colton Parayko, Torey Krug and Justin Faulk, but the Blues have eight defensemen on one-way contracts and there will be some battles in camp.

Most intriguing addition

Though Neighbours isn't a lock to make the opening night lineup, it appears he's trending in that direction. The 20-year-old played nine games in the NHL last season and had two points (one goal, one assist). He played the rest of the season with Edmonton of the Western Hockey League, where he was captain and led the team to the WHL championship after he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 30 regular-season games. St. Louis' first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2020 NHL Draft could help make up for the loss of Perron.

Biggest potential surprise

The likeliest scenario does not see Bolduc making and sticking with the NHL roster this season, but it remains a possibility for the 19-year-old center. He had 99 points (55 goals, 44 assists) in 65 games for Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, which is where he could end up this season. But he has a great shot and the talent and skill to be very successful in the League. The pressing question is when.

Ready to break through

It looked like last season was going to be the one for defenseman Scott Perunovich to make his mark, but injuries got in the way. Should the 24-year-old remain healthy, the Blues could use him in place of Marco Scandella on the third pair and the power play. Perunovich had 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 17 games for Springfield of the American Hockey League and six assists in 19 games with the Blues last season.

Fantasy sleeper

Ivan Barbashev, C/LW (fantasy average draft position: 176.3) -- He was fifth on the Blues with NHL career highs in goals (26) and points (60) last season and had their third-most 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes (0.94; minimum 40 games). Barbashev could have an even higher ceiling if he sees more top-six and power-play usage after the departure of Perron and maintains his high NHL career shooting percentage (19.2 in 351 NHL games). -- Pete Jensen

PROJECTED LINEUP

Pavel Buchnevich -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad -- Robert Thomas -- Jordan Kyrou

Jake Neighbours -- Brayden Schenn -- Ivan Barbashev

Klim Kostin -- Noel Acciari -- Nathan Walker

Nick Leddy -- Colton Parayko

Torey Krug -- Justin Faulk

Scott Perunovich -- Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

Thomas Greiss

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