The St. Louis Blues training camp roster features a hefty array of talent. While some players are proven NHL stars, some will be using the camp to show their worth to the team. Among the list of 58 names, three stand out. While all but only a few players have something to prove, these three names will surely be watched like a hawk to see if they’re really all that they’re cracked up to be.
Notable Names Headed into Training Camp
Erik Foley is, by far, the player most fans are excited to see. After missing the entirety of the 2018-19 season with concussion-related injuries, Foley fell out of the minds of many Blues fans. Yet, he’s poised for a terrific NHL career if all goes well.
Aside from having the best last name in hockey, Foley also boasts a tremendous skill set. The Blues acquired him in the heartbreaking trade that sent Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets. In the deal, St. Louis reeled in Foley and a first-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft that was eventually dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Foley’s value was made clear by the deal. The now 22-year-old Foley played in three seasons with Providence College after being drafted by the Jets in 2015. Through those three college years, Foley tallied a total of 88 points in 110 games. 69 of these points came in the 74 games he played between his sophomore and junior year.
These aren’t dazzling collegiate numbers but Foley’s still boasted great potential heading into last year. He was set to make a big splash in the AHL before his injuries held him back. With this upcoming training camp, Foley will look to rekindle the excitement that surrounded him last summer. More importantly, he’ll fight to simply show the Blues organization that, despite having a full year off, he’s still got what it takes to fight for an NHL spot. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell if he does or not until camp begins. Foley has remained behind closed doors during his year off, not opening up much about his development. With that in mind, it’s important to note that off-season training is a world of difference from the riggers that the Blues will put Foley through during camp. This adds to the already dramatic return Foley is poised for, bringing up the question of his conditioning.
In short, the upcoming training camp is Foley’s chance to defiantly tell the Blues, and their entire fan base, that he is still a great NHL prospect. If he can’t, there’s a good chance he could fall out of favor, especially with the recent rise of players like Nolan Stevens and Austin Poganski. To say that training camp, and the pre-season, are Foley’s last chances is a bit presumptuous but a strong showing will surely make the road ahead much smoother.
A handful of Blues prospects shined through during the 2019 Traverse City Prospects Tournament. While overall a less-than-exciting tournament for the Blues, fans did get a glimpse at a few fairly unsuspecting names. Of the list of players, Robby Jackson is one of the most talked about. The 22-year-old St. Cloud State alum was terrific for the Blues during the tournament, easily one of the standouts. He netted two goals in the three games he played.
Two goals doesn’t jump off the page by any means. Sure, he looked dazzling while netting them, but he also boasts much more age and experience than most of his competition in the tournament. So one must turn to his college statistics to adequately asses Jackson. Luckily, these numbers are equally as impressive. After a modest freshman and sophomore year, Jackson exploded for 42 points in 40 games during his junior year, effectively doubling his point totals from the year before. In his senior year he was equally as strong, netting 40 points in 37 games. He also made his AHL debut after the college season ended. In three games with the San Antonio Rampage, he scored one goal, scored in his first game with the team.
St. Cloud was a tremendous team last season and few players were more noticeable than Jackson. He ranked third on the team in points and second in goals. His small-but-sturdy frame (5’9”, 190lbs) was noticeable every time he took the ice, one of many great players to suit up with St. Cloud last season. His strong showing in Traverse City has earned him a training camp invite, something he’ll look to take full advantage of.
While a strong training camp won’t earn Jackson an NHL roster spot, it could very well establish his prowess in the Blues farm system. A few months ago, Jackson was fairly unsuspecting, with many discounting him to a simple AHL-regular. Training camp is his chance to prove he’s above this discounted label, establishing himself as one of the many promising prospects in the Blues system.
Of every Blues prospect to take the ice in Traverse City, few were more impressive than Keean Washkurak. While he didn’t dazzle on the scoresheet by any means, recording two points in four games, he made sure to take advantage of every second of ice time he was given. Washkurak looked smart and confident with the puck. He was ultimately a fundamentally sound player throughout the entire tournament, a promising attribute for such a young player.
Where Washkurak stands out isn’t his skill, per se. There’s plenty to be said about his stats, he scored 47 points in 66 OHL games last year and was seemingly lethal anytime he had the puck in a high-scoring area, but his true golden-quality is his work ethic. Washkurak put everything on the line in every shift, whether it be during his tenure in the OHL or in Traverse City. He wasn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice, doing everything in his power to obtain the puck. Despite a fairly modest 5’10”, 185lbs frame, Washkurak boasts an extremely aggressive style of play. He isn’t afraid to throw down the gloves, either. Last year, he tied for fourth in the OHL with four fights. He even threw down the gloves in Traverse City, after being laid out by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Riley McKay.
It’s pretty easy to see what kind of player Washkurak is when watching these fights. A mid-season bout against Ty Dellandrea excited the OHL-world. After being on the receiving end of a hit, Washkurak threw down with Dellandrea. The fight was fairly even, with Washkurak both giving and receiving an absolute beating, but that makes for a tremendous parallel to his play. He can take a beating and still prevail, despite being undersized.
This amazing work ethic is what will carry Washkurak above many other prospects. Despite being a fifth-round pick in this summer’s draft, and turning 18 less than a month ago, Washkurak has busted his tail and earned an invite to the team’s training camp. He’ll be very exciting to watch over the course of camp. Like with Jackson, he’s not fighting for an NHL role but simply a strong position among the Blues prospects.
It’s too early to call Washkurak a steal, by far, but the work ethic he’s flaunted thus far transforms a fairly mediocre skillset into a force to be reckoned with. In an era where the ‘grinder’ style of play is quickly fading, Washkurak finds a way to keep it alive. It seems the sky is the limit for the young forward as long as he can continue improving. The first step in that will be training camp.