As promised here is the 2nd piece of a 3 -4 piece series on the Blues 2023-24 Roster.

The only part of the team ready to compete next year will be the Blues Defense.  The only reason they aren't ready to compete this year is due to dynamic ratings, which I'm just fine with.   This is a defensive core that any NHL team would love to have.  Let's start by looking at the anchor.

Dougie Hamilton:
NHL Norris trophy contender Dougie Hamilton.  After a bit of a down year last year with only 30 points in 62 GP, Hamilton is now having a career year with 14points in 16GP.  He’s avgering over 20 minutes per game in New Jersey and plays in all situations.  He will be a UFA and will likely be the Blues loyalty this off season.  Yes, he’ll be expensive, but the Blues will be able to afford him.  

Next up and Hamilton’s potential defensive partner is:

Marcus Pettersson: 
Like Hamilton, Pettersson is on pace to have a career year at the NHL level.   Recently described by Mike Sullivan (Penguins head coach) as the Pens most reliable defensemen, he’s averaging about 21 minutes per game playing on Pittsburgh’s top pairing and has 7 assists through 16GP.  He’ll be on the last year of his contract next year paying him 850k per year.  Such value!   

First up on the 2nd paring: 

Sean Durzi:
Like Petterson he is playing over 20 minutes per night and getting all kinds of power play time in LA.  Building upon a successful rookie season where he scored 27 points in 64 GP, Durzi already has 9 points in 18gp this year and will be locked up for 3 more years after this one at only 1.15 million.    He should reach his peak value starting next year.  Just in time for the Blues to start competing again.  

Slightly behind him on the development curve is Maple Leaf top 4 defenceman:

Timothy Liljegren: 
Like Durzi, Lijegren had his first full NHL season last year scoring 23 points in 61 GP.   He started off the season injured but has recently returned and already has 2 goals in 6 GP.  With only a 68DF rating this year, Liljgren isn’t quite ready for top 4 minutes, however, assuming he gets close to a full season under his belt this year, that DF rating should at least be respectful.   It’s rumored that if the Blues were ready to compete this year, Blues GM Thompson would have challenged that DF rating.   

The others: 
As it stands now, the Blues bottom pairing will be made up of Nikita Zaitsev and Jakub Zboril.   At the NHL level, Zaitsev has currently been put on waivers and given permission to contact other teams to work out a trade. Unfortuntley with that contract he’s not likely to find many dance partners.  In the NEFHL he still has decent ratings and will likely continue to have decent ratings next year as well, if not a little expensive for what he offiers.  If the Blues run into cap trouble he’ll be one of the first to go.   Zboril on the other hand, is 25 year old former first round pick of the Bruins who hasn’t quite panned out but still seems to be a solid NHL’er.  He occasionally seems top 4 minutes but should fit in nicely as a bottom pairing guy.   Considering he will be on the final year making only 750k, he should slot in nicely on that last pairing.   

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The Farm:
Looking down on the farm Vaakanainen, Alexyev and Juolevi should should provide decent depth /call up options if required.   Within the next couple years Kral maybe an option.  He got his first 2 NHL games in this year as a 21 year old but it’s clear he wasn’t ready.

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The Unsigned Prospects:
Looking at the unsigned prospects is enough to bring a tear to any GM’s eye.   The list is deep and highly promising. Toping the list is current NHLer Brandt Clarke.  Only 19, he has #1 D potential at worst top pairing 1st PP. Other potential top pairing guys include Mailoux, Morrow and Casey. They are all 2-3 years away at best.  Most likely 3-4.   Guys like Drew Helleson currently with the Ducks (but yet to play a game) and Helge Grans are NHL ready and could make their debut anytime. Putting them a little closer to contributing sooner rather than later.  Honka is another interesting character that should probably make his NHL Debut next year.   Ahac, Duda, Grudinin, and Chayka are all guys who should be NHLers but are not likely to contribute in the NEFHL for 3-4 years at the earliest.

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As you can see, the D is strong and will be even stronger next  year.  The pipeline of talent will be there for years to come.  Next up will be the Blues goaltending situation.