When planning lineups for early pre-season games, it’s pretty common for coaching staffs to mix up the participants. You want your regulars in there to get their sea legs back, but you also need to get the prospects some time too before they’re sent down to juniors or the AHL. Preseason is, after all, about evaluation, for now and for the future.
The Blues so far have only sent one prospect, Tanner Dickinson, down to his junior team. Dickinson played nearly thirteen minutes last night in the Blues’ 2-1 overtime win against the Dallas Stars. More will follow, probably after tomorrow night’s game in Columbus. Two players who clearly are not going anywhere are Jake Neighbours and Scott Perunovich.
Neighbours was the subject of effusive praise from coach Craig Berube after last night’s win:
(CONT) ... "He has a nose for the net, he gets in those little areas. That's where he gets his opportunities and scores. I really like his hockey sense and work ethic." #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) September 28, 2021
If there’s something that the Blues could use, it’s more players who go to the net. It’s why they brought Brandon Saad aboard, and it’s an effective way to score goals (as Saad demonstrated Saturday night). Neighbours finished Saturday evening’s game with a +3 and 15:29 of ice time. Last night, Berube upped the ice time to 16:24- which included 2:30 of PP time. He hasn’t made the scoresheet yet, though clearly that doesn’t matter to Coach Berube, who likes what he sees.
Scott Perunovich, on the other hand, has a few points to his name. He also has top line defensive time to point at as a sign of the coaching staff’s faith in his ability. Saturday night, he finished with 20:18 of ice time, second to Colton Parayko’s 23:24 of time. Monday night, Perunovich’s 20:23 of ice time was third on the team, behind regulars Justin Faulk (22:29) and Torey Krug (21:56). He used that time wisely, finishing with a secondary assist on Pavel Buchnevich’s second period goal and a primary assist on Sam Anas’ overtime winner.
More than likely, both Neighbours’ and Perunovich’s time with the NHL club will come to a close this pre-season, but it won’t be until the end of the exhibition games. Even if neither player gets called up to the Blues this season - there’s always a chance that can happen, thanks to injury - this pre-season has proven that the future is bright for them, and maybe the Blues’ stable of prospects isn’t as thin as some may lead you to believe.