Young Blues open at home against Jets
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues will have a decidedly new look when the puck drops on the team's season opener as it hosts the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
The Blues are going with a youth movement as prospects Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou and Sammy Blais all made the roster. Blais is the old man of the group at age 22. Thomas, regarded as one of the Blues' top prospects, is 19 and Kyrou is 20.
What they lack for in experience, St. Louis hopes they make up for in skill.
Blais, who played in 11 games last season, scored a team-high four preseason goals.
"It's a great feeling," Blais told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This year I just wanted to stay here all year and keep working hard and do what I did during the preseason."
Thomas had a goal and three assists in the preseason.
"It's obviously tough when coming in, with the environment and everything, and some pressure on you," Thomas told the Post-Dispatch. "Whenever you're trying to make a team, you always focus on stuff, (but) sometimes it's just better to relax and have fun each day."
Kyrou scored a goal and an assist in the preseason opener in Dallas on Sept. 18. He added two more assists to cement a roster spot.
"I just feel a lot more comfortable out there (this year)," Kyrou told the Post-Dispatch. "My speed is a big factor, so I really feel like I can skate out there, create a lot of opportunities."
The trio joins veterans Pat Maroon, Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron as newcomers. All six players start the season as part of the Blues' top 12 forwards.
The Blues start the season with no reserve forwards and will carry nine defensemen, two more than usual. The team elected to go with the extra defensemen as Robert Bortuzzo will serve the final game of a three-game suspension against the Jets and Joel Edmundson is dealing with a groin injury.
The Blues and Jets split their four games last season, with each team winning one and losing one on home ice.
After a 114-point season and a second-place finish in the rugged Central Division, the Jets are dealing with high expectations. ESPN ranked the Jets No. 1 in its preseason power rankings and nine of Sportsnet's NHL Insiders predicted that the team will win the Stanley Cup this season.
Jets coach Paul Maurice said the team isn't interested in what others are saying.
"They all have a really good understanding of the value of a prediction," Maurice told NHL.com. "We don't want to downplay it. Go through the list and find one that was picked first, won the Presidents (Trophy) and won the Cup. Right, there's a bunch of good teams at the top and there's a bunch of really good teams that miss the playoffs. It happens every year. And you don't want to be that team, right? You want to be that team over the course of the year that gets stronger and gets better.
"We believe we have enough talent now to be a good team but an understanding that maybe that's a smaller fraction of the whole pie that goes into having a year like last year."