ST. LOUIS — Alexander Steen is having what is shaping up to be a career season.
Steen has been considered a gifted offensive talent since he came into
the NHL; there’s a reason he was named captain of Sweden’s World Junior
team as a 17-year-old. We’re seeing abundant evidence of that promise now.
He leads the Blues in points (11), goals (7) and shots (20). He also leads all St. Louis forwards in ice time, playing 19:36 per game.
Steen’s versatility as a player has probably cost him statistically in the past. He can play all over the ice in every situation, which has him thinking about more than scoring. If he cheated, he’d probably put up more impressive numbers. Even so, he sits among the league leaders in goals and points.
Steen can play wing or center. He can take faceoffs as well as play the point on the power play. He arguably has the best shot on the team.
Steen also sees over 2 minutes per game on both the power play and the penalty kill. His plus-5 rating is tied for second on the team (with Jay Bouwmeester) behind T.J. Oshie, who’s plus-6.
Steen also is a professional off the ice. He takes great care of his body and has been a great influence on some of the younger players in terms of how he goes about his business. If he can stay healthy, he should be considered a Selke Trophy candidate almost every season.
Re-signing Steen, 29 — who is in the final year of a four-year contract — will be an off-season priority for the Blues.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The Blues …
Rank eighth in the NHL in team plus/minus with a plus-8 rating.
Have lost 195 faceoffs, fewest in the NHL.
Are eighth in the NHL with a 52.6 faceoff percentage.
Have 27 giveaways this season, the fewest in the NHL. The Blues, who finished with the second-fewest giveaways last season, talk a lot about valuing the puck. At the other end of the spectrum, Toronto has an astounding 134 giveaways already this season.
Have the fourth-best power play at 27.8 percent.
Have had only 26 power-play opportunities, fourth fewest in the NHL.
Have allowed only five third-period goals, two coming in a shootout loss at Winnipeg last Friday.
Lead the NHL in penalty minutes with 156 (thanks in large part to three misconducts against Florida) and in bench minors with three. Their 49 penalties are the third most in the league.
Are sixth in five-on-five scoring, a big improvement over a year ago, when they ranked 20th.
Are 3-0-1 when outshooting their opponent.
Are 4-0-1 when scoring first.
FARM REPORT – CHICAGO WOLVES
Goaltender Jake Allen has been the best player thus far for the Chicago Wolves — no surprise there. Depending on how long Allen remains in Chicago, the Wolves should put together a very good season.
Right wing Ty Rattie, a former second-round draft pick, is learning the pro game on the fly. He has spent time playing up and down the lineup but plays with the top power-play unit. He brings a special skill set that has been noticeable even at the American Hockey League level.
Left wing Dmitrij Jaskin, another former second-rounder with a promising future, has missed the last two-plus games with an injured shoulder. He’s likely to remain sidelined an additional two to three weeks. He crashed heavily into the boards a little over a week ago. Word is Jaskin had been really good up to that point. He’s so strong, his power game is certainly there. There’s no doubt getting some NHL time last season has accelerated his development.
Two players who have gotten off to strong starts are winger Tyler Shattock and defenseman David Shields. Shattock scored in both games over the weekend and has spent some time
cracking the top nine. He has been primarily a fourth-line player
throughout his pro career. Shields has been solid thus far, earning top four minutes. He came into this season with no goals in 107 career AHL games.
Defenseman Joel Edmundson, another former second-rounder, didn’t play Saturday after dressing in the first five games. He needs some time to develop but has demonstrated his typical hard game.
Edmundson and defenseman Jani Hakanpaa are legitimate NHL prospects. Hakanpaa is probably a little ahead of Edmundson, but both players will play different roles once they’re ready to graduate to the NHL. Hakanpaa played against men last season, getting some AHL games in late last year.
Left wing Sergey Andronov impressed in Traverse City as well as training camp, but nagging injuries have forced him in and out of the lineup to begin the season.
Left wing Chris Porter is getting rave reviews for his attitude and the way he has conducted himself on and off the ice.
Right wing Sebastian Wannstrom, drafted in the second round in 2010, has registered one assist in two games. Word is he’s getting better by the game.
Coach John Anderson has yet to name a captain as he’s still learning the players in the Blues system.
Colton Parayko recently took home WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks sophomore has four points in four games. Parayko was drafted by the Blues in the third round in 2012.
2013 second-round pick Thomas Vannelli has been lights-out in his first season with Medicine Hat in the WHL. He’s been a power-play force and already has eight points in nine games. Scouts tell me they’re surprised at how well he can one-time the puck. He’ll need some work defending before he’s ready to take the next step.
William Carrier, another 2013 second-rounder, has 13 points in 12 games for Cape Breton in the QMJHL. He got off to a slow start scoring goals but has recently come on. The Blues asked him in camp to work on playing an all-around game. He could probably score more if he focused solely on that area of his game.
You can follow Andy Strickland on Twitter at @andystrickland or
email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also writes about the Blues
and the NHL at truehockey.com.