Blues October Prospects Report: Alexandrov, Bolduc & Buchinger
This season, the St. Louis Blues prospect report will be a standout The Hockey Writers, sketch and present their seasons throughout the year. The franchise offers a range of well-rounded prospects who may not be the flashy ones many fans covet, but reliable players who can play for the team in all situations.
Drafted 62nd overall by the Blues in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Nikita Alexandrov has begun to earn his attention, working his way up the depth chart over the past three years. In his debut season in the American Hockey League (AHL), he played just seven games with the Utica Comets, where he scored three goals and five points, a 51-point pacing in 72 games. He appeared in just 67 games in the 2021-22 season and had growing pains, scoring just 12 goals and 30 points. Despite his points performance, he has shown strides in his development as he matures into a versatile, competitive forward. Last season, he played on a veteran-staffed AHL roster for the Springfield Thunderbirds, finishing fifth overall and among the top players on the Calder Cup-contesting team.
In the preseason, Alexandrov appeared in three games for the Blues and scored two goals in three games from six shots, including one of two goals scored in 23 seconds against the Chicago Blackhawks. This season he’s taking on a top-six role in which he has already scored one goal and four points in his first five games. He could be one of the first players to be recalled by the Blues in the event of an injury as he continues to develop into his projected center six role in the NHL.
The Blues wasted no time and signed their first-round draft pick from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on August 23, 2021 to a three-year entry-level contract. The forward was drafted 17th overall by Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Ice Hockey League (QMJHL). After recording 30 goals and 22 assists in 55 games for Rimouski in 2019-20, Zachary Bolduc added 10 goals and 19 assists in 27 games during the 2020-21 season shortened by the pandemic. He broke out last season, scoring a whopping 55 goals and 99 points in 65 games. He has five goals and 13 points in eight games this season, most recently in a 7-1 win over the Charlottetown Islanders.
Bolduc created an opportunity with the club in the pre-season but was eventually traded back to the QMJHL on October 4. Commenting on his performance, Blues head coach Craig Berube said:
“He is a child. He’s not ready for this level yet. He has to go down and play with more pace. I think he can do a lot more with his feet than he can with the puck. He needs to skate more, make more moves, and not just be a shooter. He is able to do more with his ability. And defensively he needs to improve. He needs to be more responsible defensively. He must understand the responsibility of playing and checking a good D.” (From Blues notebook: Blues return high-scoring Bolduc to his junior team, st louis mailing, 4 Oct 2022).
After missing the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Michael Buchinger had to do whatever it took to stand out during his draft season. The 5-foot-11 defenseman was one-half of one of the best defensive pairings in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last year alongside Cam Allen. Buchinger often played a conservative style of play that allowed Allen to play aggressively to complete and complement each other throughout the season. His calm demeanor during each match is an element of his personality that stands out as he never comes across as overwhelmed.
RELATED: Blues’ 2022 Draft Deep Dive: Michael Buchinger
Buchinger finished 17th in points and 12th in assists by a defenseman with 44 points (5G, 39A) in 63 games, and also second in points by a rookie defenseman. Though he’s probably a few years away from a chance in the NHL, his effective plank work and puck moving skills could see him take a shot at the pro level sooner or later. He will struggle with several defenders as the club currently have the likes of Justin Faulk, Torey Krug, Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich all of whom will be with the club for the foreseeable future. The Blues also have prospects Tyler Tucker, Matt Kessel, Brady Lyle and Dmitri Samorukov who are also pushing for a spot in the NHL.
The Blues are a team in a contradictory state of their franchise. While the NHL side is pushing for a second Stanley Cup, which could be a final drive for some of the organization’s key players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, their prospect pool is also one of the shallower ones in the league. The front office must ensure that all future transactions help strengthen it to continue the Blues’ high level of competition each year.
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers, covering the St. Louis Blues as of November 2021. He has a great love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings and trades. consequences mike on Twitter for more blues or middle league hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content information.