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Blues report card: Latest forward grades, from Kyrou to Buren to Thomas

It’s hard to fathom now, but Jake Neighbors started the 2023-2024 season for the St. Louis Blues on the fourth line. There was also a time when Jordan Kyrou leading the team in goals at the end of the season seemed like a long shot. And in February, Zack Bolduc was still in AHL Springfield.

However, for each of these three attackers there was a turning point in the season; a point that the Blues hope bodes well for the future.

For others, the season hasn’t gone well at any point, and they likely won’t be around when training camp starts in September.

Our first of two report cards this offseason features grades for the Blues’ forwards. We’ll have one coming soon for the defensemen, goalies, coaches Craig Berube and Drew Bannister and general manager Doug Armstrong.

The players had to appear in a minimum of 20 games or end the season on the team’s roster, and the rating is based on their role.


Alexandrov was never considered a high-end talent, but he seemed to have a future in the Blues’ bottom six. He’s only 23 years old, but it’s harder to see that future now. The team kept him on the roster all season because it didn’t want to risk losing him to waivers, but he played in just 23 games and was a healthy scratch most nights.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

23

0-2-2

Grade: D

Honestly, it was hard to remember Blais was on the team. After scoring nine goals and 20 points in 31 games after the Blues acquired him from the New York Rangers in 2022-23, he looked like a steal on a one-year, $1 million contract. But after starting the season on the third line, he lost confidence, and aside from a few big hits, went largely unnoticed.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

53

1-6-7

Grade: F

Zack Bolduc

NHL careers can take shape quickly. Bolduc went from wearing an AHL Springfield jersey to wearing the Blue Note for 25 games, and now he’s in the conversation for a top six role in 2024-2025. The 21-year-old, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2021, scored five goals in those 25 games, including four in the last nine.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

25

5-4-9

Grade: B+

It wasn’t a bad year for Buchnevich. It just wasn’t what we’re used to from him. His 27 goals and 63 points were nearly identical to his 2022-23 performances, but he did so in 80 games, up from 63. He missed the finish on many scoring opportunities and committed some unusual turnovers. Still a good player though.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

80

27-36-63

Grade: C+

Zach Dean

The sample size is small, but the eye test was encouraging. Dean, acquired last year in the trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for Ivan Barbashev, was called up from AHL Springfield in March and played in just nine games for the Blues. In that short time, he showed that he is a hard worker and could be a candidate for the fourth-line center role next season.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

9

0-0-0

Grade B

Armstrong traded for Hayes last summer because he needed a veteran center to help the team compete during the retooling. He got into action occasionally, but his lack of speed was obvious. Hayes has two years left on his contract, but with the Blues giving him a healthy head start it’s hard to see him being part of the future.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

79

13-16-29

Grade: D+

Kapanen admitted that this was the worst season of his career, so there is no reason to continue. It wasn’t a huge risk when the Blues acquired the winger from the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, but it just didn’t work out. It has wheels and can help with the penalty kill, but there wasn’t much else. He’s a free agent who shouldn’t be coming back.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

73

6-16-22

Grade: F

Jordan Kyrou

No matter what kind of season Kyrou has had, it will be overanalyzed more than most, so let’s stick to the facts. He led the Blues with 31 goals, including 10 in the last 13 games. His plus-minus improved from minus-38 last season to minus-12 this season. The Blues pointed out that there are a lot of highs and lows, and they would like the valleys to not be so low.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

82

31-36-67

Grade B

Jake Neighbors

Neighbors couldn’t have done better this season. He was shocked to reach the 20-goal plateau and might have reached 30 if not for an upper-body injury late in the season. He deserves praise for the way he played, getting to the front of the net where he scored 20 of his 27 goals. The Blues’ 2020 first-round pick is a real building block.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

77

27-11-38

Grade: A+

Saad will never excite Blues fans, but he continues to produce. His 26 goals were the most he scored since scoring 31 with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015-16. He led the Blues with seven winning goals, including two in overtime. And his versatility, moving up and down the lineup, is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

82

26-16-42

Grade: B+

Some will disagree with Schenn’s figure and I understand that. He went on streaks of 16 and 18 games without a goal and a streak of 12 games without a point. His minus-22 was the worst among forwards. But I do believe that this was Schenn’s first season as captain, which weighed heavily on his performance, and he did a lot that wasn’t on the scoresheet.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

82

20-26-46

Grade: C

It promised to be a remarkable season for Sundqvist in his reunion with the Blues. He has been plagued by injuries in the past, having played in almost every game and even signed a two-year extension just before the NHL’s trade deadline on March 8. Then the fan favorite tore a knee ligament – ​​again. He’ll be back next season, but how many injuries can he handle?

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

71

6-15-21

Grade B

What more can you say? He set career highs in goals, assists and points, and was only the fourth Blues player since 2000 to score more than 80 points, joining Pavol Demitra, Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Tarasenko. And while he played the most minutes against the opponent’s top players, he was on the ice for 60 five-on-five goals for and only 42 against.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

82

26-60-86

Grade: A+

Toropchenko had made a bet with Buthnevich that he would reach 25 points this season, and although he fell just short with 21, it was a great season for the compatriot. His fourteen goals were a career high, but more importantly, he was one of the Blues’ best forecheckers, backcheckers and shot blockers. He had 55 blocks, which was the most of any forward on the team.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

82

7/14/21

Class A

Jakub Vrana

This was a disaster for Vrana. The Blues acquired him in 2023, sending a seventh-round pick to Detroit, and things started promisingly. But it quickly became clear that Vrana had no interest in defending or even understanding what the coaches wanted. After finishing this season with AHL Springfield, the free agent is on his way out of the organization.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

21

2-4-6

Grade: F

Walker is the Blues’ Masterton Trophy candidate for a reason: perseverance. He started the season at AHL Springfield, and from the moment he was recalled, you wondered why he was in the minors. He puts in the same intense effort every night, which has led to three fights this season. He is a fan favorite and should be in the lineup on opening night in October.

Player Games Goals-Assistant-Points

45

7-6-13

Class A

(Top photo of Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)