As the St. Louis Blues training camp starts, I think we can all agree that, barring an injury situation, the Blues will carry 2 goalies, 7 defensemen, and 14 forwards on the 23 man roster. So who will those seven be?
You have to think there are six complete locks barring a trade with those being right handers Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk along with left handers Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson, Barret Jackman and Jordan Leopold. It might be important to note that Leopold has a partial no movement clause.
One has to assume that left hander Ian Cole has the inside track on the seventh spot though right hander Nate Prosser hopes to make that a tough decision as does left hander Christ Butler, while left handed try out invitee Ryan Whitney hopes to show enough to earn a contract with the Blues or another organization.
As far as some of the talented youngsters, nineteen year old right hander Thomas Vanelli is likely to gain some valuable experience and knowledge before he hones his craft in the minors. Twenty year old left hander Petteri Lindbohm also looks to gain some valuable experience and knowledge before transitioning his game from Finland to the minor leagues of North America. Twenty one year old left hander Joel Edmundson is destined to continue to work on his game in Chicago in the AHL. Twenty two year old right hander Jani Hakanpaa also appears destined for Chicago, especially given his thumb injury. I can't see any of this group making the opening night roster barring injuries. With trades, maybe Hakanpaa could make it but by all accounts he had a terrible Traverse City tournament (no points big minus player).
So let's look at the potentially viable 7th defenseman options. It's not his fault but in this situation, being left handed sure doesn't help Cole. Having said that, I don't think it matters. The people that don't think he will rotate the third pairing this year are delusional in my opinion. What else do you want this former first round pick to do to earn his opportunity? He happily shuttled between Peoria and St. Louis from 2010 to 2013. He was a great organizational player playing in only 46 games last season while posting 11 points and a plus 15. You never once have seen any press about him complaining, even after the second Carlo experiment. Many former first round picks would have balked and demanded a trade (see Kevin Hayes and other for easy examples). Again I ask. What else do you want this man to do to show he deserves an opportunity? Will he play 40 games? Will he play 65? I think that is largely up to him and how he plays. I can easily see the blues rotating Cole, Jackman and Leopold so that each play about 55 games. Keep the veterans fresh, ride the matchups and the guys playing well. Injuries will likely adjust this but I bet this is the plan. But wait, what about Nate Prosser, Chris Butler and Ryan Whitney.
Let's start with the easy one. Whitney seems like a numbers game. The Blues are giving him the same opportunity to show enough that another team signs him. I doubt he gets the tryout if not for the injuries to Gunnarsson and Hankappa.
Nate Prosser is a much more interesting option, especially given that he is right handed, an area the Blues seem to be short handed. While being undrafted, Prosser played over 50 games in two of the last three years. Prosser had a 5 on 5 corsi of 77 and a ifenwick of 47 last year compared to Cole's 97 and 64. Prosser did play 30 more minutes than Cole last year. Does that give him and edge? Does him being right handed give him an edge? I don't think so. Prosser has size and can hit like Cole and see him as a depth call up in injury situations.
Even more interesting that Prosser is Chris Butler. Would you believe that Butler played more twice as many minutes as Cole last year? He did 1,662 vs 694. He played almost 1,000 more minutes. Butler was 58th in minutes played last year by defenseman. Of course, he played for the lowly Flames last year and had a bad plus minus of minus twenty three, the worst of the Flames defensemen (8 worse than former blue Dennis Wideman). Butler also beat Cole badly in corsi and ifenwick with 163 and 100, respectively. That's right, his Corsi, the stat of the Blues goalie coach, was more than double Cole's Corsi. If I was Cole, my focus would be on outperforming Butler. I could easily see Butler starting on the roster if Gunarsson cannot go on opening night and if Cole slips, Butler will be nipping on his heels. Here is hoping that Cole finds the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow along with a Stanley Cup.
As always, it's a great day for hockey.