The St. Louis Blues 2018-19 season was the story of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NHL history. The eventual Stanley Cup champs were last place in the entire league at the turn of the calendar year. An offensive resurgence and the arrival of Jordan Binnington propelled St. Louis to a 30-10-5 record from January 1 onwards. They secured a playoff spot as the third seed in the Central Division, and the rest is history.
While no one could have predicted a turnaround of that magnitude, it was not surprising to see. St. Louis is a dominant team at 5v5, and they experienced some seriously poor puck luck in the first half of the season. While the favourable regression was predictable, the sudden stability in goal was not. Jake Allen had been struggling for the better part of two seasons and there appeared to be no relief in sight. Enter Binnington, the 25-year-old netminder who hadn’t played an NHL game since 2016. The stoic goaltender was phenomenal down the stretch, posting a .927 SV% with a 1.89 GAA and a 24-5-1 record. His performance was integral to their success, and St. Louis is hoping it will be more of the same from him in 2019-20.
The Blues return this season with their championship roster largely intact. After re-signing Carl Gunnarsson to a two-year deal, Patrick Maroon is the team’s only notable loss to free agency. St. Louis was also able to avoid the league-wide trend when it came to their RFA negotiations, as they made quick work of re-signing Binnington, Oskar Sundqvist, Joel Edmundson, and Zach Sanford. There’s no reason why this team can’t compete for another championship in 2020.
The Blues strength will continue to be in numbers in the 2019-20 season. St. Louis boasts an incredibly deep group of forwards, highlighted by Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly. Brayden Schenn has proven himself to be an effective player down the middle as well as on the wing. His versatility adds a lot of flexibility to the lineup. Jaden Schwartz and David Perron solidify the top-six, with Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen forming the nucleus of line three. Sundqvist, Sanford, and Robert Thomas will have to compete for the top nine’s remaining two spots. And for what it’s worth, St. Louis should have one of the better fourth lines again this season.
Vladimir Tarasenko (RW)
- — Tarasenko rebounded after a disappointing start to the 2018-19 season, registering 22 goals and 24 assists in 39 games from January 1 onwards. If he can stay healthy, Tarasenko has 40-goal upside. He is one of the most reliable goal scorers in the NHL having scored at least 33 goals in five straight seasons. There are only a handful of forwards that should go ahead of Tarasenko on draft day.
Ryan O’Reilly (C)
- — After maintaining respectable point production in Buffalo, O’Reilly was a predictable breakout success in his first season with the Blues. He tallied career highs in goals (28), assists (49), and shots on goal (234). His on-ice SH% sat at a reasonable 10.1%, and his 12.0 SH% was right in line with his career rate. He should flirt with another 70-point season, but he’ll need to continue to increase his shot volume if he wants to break the 30-goal plateau.
Brayden Schenn (C/LW)
- — O’Reilly’s arrival resulted in a shift to predominantly playing the wing for Schenn, and it cut into his ice-time as well. The result was a slight drop in production for Schenn, but he still finished with 17 goals and 37 assists in 72 games. Shot volume was a concern last year, but his production can only fall so far when he’s playing with Tarasenko. Schenn projects to be an assist-heavy, 60-point producer this season.
Jaden Schwartz (LW)
- — Similar to Schenn, Schwartz’s opportunity and production took a hit with the arrival of O’Reilly. He managed just 11 goals and 25 assists in 69 games last season. He suffered through a 6.0 SH% and a 7.4 on-ice SH%, so you can expect Schwartz to be a lot better than the 36 points he put up last season. Still, a lack of goal scoring and a history of being injury prone make Schwartz a borderline player in standard leagues.
David Perron (LW/RW)
- — Perron was productive when healthy last season, registering 46 points in 57 games. A 20.5 SH% means he was incredibly fortunate to score 23 times last year. He could have trouble getting back to that mark across a full 82 games. The dual-wing eligibility is nice, but his opportunity severely limits his potential production. In standard leagues, I’d categorize him more as an early-season streaming target than a late-round flier.
Tyler Bozak (C)
- — Bozak is a quality depth piece for the Blues, but he won’t be worth rostering so long as he’s centring line three. He had an ATOI of 16:21 but did see plenty of run with the first power-play unit. The 38 points he put up last year feel like a fair benchmark for Bozak in 2019-20. His relevance is limited to deep leagues that reward power-play production.
The defensive corps is similar to the forwards in that depth is the key to their success. Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko are two of the best right-handed defensemen in the league. Vince Dunn has plenty of offensive upside and his defensive game is starting to round into shape, too. Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarson can both take on larger roles and more difficult assignments should any of the guys ahead of them miss time. Edmundson should have the edge over Robert Bortuzzo for that sixth and final spot.
Alex Pietrangelo (D)
- — Pietrangelo’s dip in assists was disappointing for fantasy owners last season, but he remains a reliable double-digit goal scorer. His ice time will continue to be sky-high and that does give his production a very stable floor, but Parayko and Dunn are both legitimate threats to his power-play time. If he’s healthy, he is a safe bet for around 10 goals and 30 assists, but 50 points feel like a stretch at this point.
Colton Parayko (D)
- — It was nice to see Parayko finally break double-digit goals last season, but 18 assists leave a lot to be desired. His shot volume also took a bit of a hit. He registered just 176 shots on goal compared to 212 the year before. He has a heavy shot and it makes sense that he would see some more time on the power-play this season, but it’s hard to imagine him emerging as the clear-cut, number-one option ahead of Dunn and Pietrangelo. In standard leagues, I’m not comfortable with having Parayko as anything more than my fourth defenseman heading into the season.
Vince Dunn (D)
- — Dunn impressed in a limited role last season, scoring 12 times and adding 23 assists. An 8.0 SH% suggests he’ll need to shoot more if he wants to top 10 goals again this season, but that could easily happen with a bump in ice-time. Dunn had an ATOI of 17:23 last season. He has a lot of offensive upside and the Blues have already shown a willingness to give him power-play time over Pietrangelo and Parayko. I’ll be targeting him towards the end of my drafts.
Following his outstanding rookie performance, Binnington is St. Louis’ uncontested number-one goalie heading into the 2019-20 season. He will have plenty of rope as he goes through his first full NHL season. Allen remains with the team in an ideal role as Binnington’s backup. His splits are much easier to swallow when you’re only looking to get 20 or so games out of him. Goaltending should continue to be a strength for the Blues this season.
Jordan Binnington (G)
- — While the sample size is small, I’m more than comfortable with having Binnington as my starting fantasy netminder. His play held up in the playoffs against the best of the best and he has a terrific team in front of him. There is some slight risk here, but the upside is too great to ignore. Binnington offers fair value at his current ADP of 49.6.
Jake Allen (G)
- — While his days of being a legitimate starting goalie seem long gone, Allen is a serviceable NHL backup. His .905 SV% was 42nd among goalies with at least 20 appearances last season. Don’t be surprised if that SV% creeps back up around his career mark of .911 now that he’s playing in a reduced role. Obviously, he won’t be relevant in standard leagues so long as Binnington is healthy.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|V. Tarasenko (36)||R. O’Reilly (43)||V. Tarasenko (70)||V. Tarasenko (10)||V. Tarasenko (21)|
|R. O’Reilly (25)||B. Schenn (36)||R. O’Reilly (68)||R. O’Reilly (10)||R. O’Reilly (21)|
|B. Schenn (24)||V. Tarasenko (34)||B. Schenn (60)||B. Schenn (10)||B. Schenn (20)|
Blues in the DFO Top 300
- 38 — Vladimir Tarasenko (RW)
- 48 — Jordan Binnington (G)
- 88 — Ryan O’Reilly (C)
- 92 — Brayden Schenn (C/LW)
- 122 — Alex Pietrangelo (D)
- 162 — Jaden Schwartz (LW)
- 192 — Colton Parayko (D)
- 227 — David Perron (LW/RW)
- 252 — Jake Allen (G)
- 287 — Tyler Bozak (C)
- 298 — Vince Dunn (D)
|1||NASHVILLE PREDATORS||45-27-10||100 PTS|
|2||DALLAS STARS||44-28-10||98 PTS|
|3||ST. LOUIS BLUES||45-30-7||97 PTS|
|4||COLORADO AVALANCHE||43-28-11||97 PTS|
|6||CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS||40-32-10||90 PTS|
|7||MINNESOTA WILD||37-36-9||83 PTS|
With no clear-cut favourite in the Central division, the Blues could easily end up on top of what we expect to be a three-horse race. They are a very good team, but if they want to win the division, they’ll need Binnington to be every bit as good as he was last year. If he falters in his first full season, the 2019 Stanley Cup champs could find themselves competing for a Wild Card spot.