When the Blues finalized last season’s opening-night roster in early October, forward Dmitrij Jaskin and defenseman Petteri Lindbohm were among the final four players re-assigned by the club.
Jaskin, a second-round pick in 2011, had seemingly done enough to make the cut, but a numbers game forced him to begin the year with the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate.
Lindbohm, a sixth-round choice in 2012, was a virtual unknown before training camp, but his performance was so impressive that the Blues told the Finnish native to remain in North America and be ready when called upon.
Jaskin, 22, and Lindbohm, 21, were eventually recalled last season and both contributed to the Central Division-winning club. Jaskin netted 13 of his 14 career NHL goals in 54 games, while Lindbohm held firm through 23 games with a plus-minus rating of minus-1. He also accrued some respect from teammates by racking up 26 penalty minutes, including two fighting majors.
Jaskin and Lindbohm are among a sizeable group of Blues' players who have arrived in town well in advance of training camp to begin working together on-ice to prepare for the 2015-16 NHL season... and both players expect to be in St. Louis for this season from start to finish.
"You can really prepare, but it's still home, you're thinking about a lot of different stuff, you don't really think about just hockey. When you're here and you see everybody around, that gives you a little more push to work harder. I know what to expect now. I thought I knew last year, but I didn't. But this year, I know what to expect." -- Dmitrij Jaskin
"Last year when I came over here, I just tried to do my best every day. This year, I guess same thing. I just give you everything I've got on the ice, and we'll see how far that goes. Last year, nobody really knew me, but it's still the same thing this year. I want to play up here, so I'm fighting for that. There's still a lot of (defensemen) fighting for that position. I'm one of those guys and I hope I get it." -- Petteri Lindbohm
Jaskin and Lindbohm aren't the only youngsters who have come to town early hoping to get a jump on their peers. The list of early birds includes a couple of former first-round picks and two other top prospects, ostensibly here to prepare for the Traverse City Prospect Tournament beginning Sept. 11, but also looking for a chance to impress the coaching staff and make the NHL roster, too.
Forward prospects Robby Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev were also on the ice last week, as well as defensemen Colton Parayko and Jordan Schmaltz.
The hard work and dedication shown by these youngsters isn't lost on Blues' head coach Ken Hitchcock.
"There's just so much competition and it's all younger players," Hitchcock said. "It's like anything else with any of these players ... it's really in their court. There's openings and it's really in their court. What they do with it is up to them, but we’re going to give them every opportunity to have success — every opportunity."
"For a lot of these guys, it was really new to them last year, and now they understand what's going on. They're not wide-eyed. It's not like they're just happy to be here. It's like 'OK, when does this thing start, I'm ready.' They're serious about their craft and that's the part that you love. They want to come in and make a difference. They don't just want to come in and make the team, they want to come in and make a difference."