It’s never too early to pick awards favourites in the NHL and through 10 games Alex Pietrangelo is making a case for his first Norris Trophy. But he isn’t the only Blues player off to a hot start with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko connecting on another goal Wednesday, proving that St. Louis is once again a tough team to beat.
Here are four things we learned in the NHL on Wednesday.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is the next great Blue Jacket you’ve never heard of
Originally a third-round pick in 2013, Oliver Bjorkstrand is finally getting a chance with the Columbus Blue Jackets after spending the last two seasons in the AHL.
As he showed on Wednesday Bjorkstrand, 22, has a wicked wrister that is both fast and accurate. Chad Johnson didn’t have a chance on this one.
Bjorkstrand was named the MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs in 2015-16 when he led the Lake Erie Monsters to the AHL title. For that reason, many people thought last season would be when he made the jump to the NHL. While it may have taken an extra year to stick with the big club, he’s now here to stay and ready to make an impact in the big leagues.
Bjorkstrand now has two goals and five points in nine games this season. Along with Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Blue Jackets have a strong group of depth scorers that should help them stay competitive for a long time.
The 2010 draft was monumental for the St. Louis Blues
Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have been attached at the hip since the Blues took both of them in the 2010 draft.
Schwartz went with pick No. 14 and Tarasenko at No. 16, but the Blues almost missed out on one of them.
“The story goes that the Blues debated Schwartz or Vladimir Tarasenko to the point where someone (believed to be scout Dan Ginnell) said, ‘Why not both?’ Eventually, they added a second pick to take Tarasenko.”
The Blues acquired pick No. 16 from the Ottawa Senators for defenceman David Rundblad. Rundblad is currently playing in the KHL, while Tarasenko is teaming up with Schwartz on sweet goals like this every night.
Tarasenko now has 10 points and Schwartz has 14, with the goal on Wednesday extending Schwartz’s point streak to five games.
They both now are the fifth- and sixth-highest scorers from their draft year, providing more offence than even the Blues could have hoped for seven years ago.
While no other player drafted by the Blues that year made the NHL, the two that did have been awesome. Safe to say Blues fans will be thankful for the 2010 draft for a long time.
Alex Pietrangelo is an early favourite for the Norris
While Tarasenko and Schwartz are leading the Blues forwards, Alex Pietrangelo is putting together a Norris-worthy start to the season on their blue line.
The Blues captain scored the game-winning goal against the Flames. He now has four goals and leads all defencemen with 12 points in 10 games. The hot start also puts him in some pretty exclusive company among some other great defencemen in Blues history.
The fourth-pick in the 2008 draft quietly had a career year last season and already looks poised to surpass that in 2017-18. With Kevin Shattenkirk now playing in New York, the Blues have to be happy with the increased offence Pietrangelo is bringing from the blue line.
Backup goalies sink Flames, Sabres
Both teams were playing their second game in two days and got big wins from their starters on Tuesday. But the backups let them down the night after, each team giving up five goals (four plus an empty-netter for the Flames).
For the Flames, Eddie Lack has fallen a long way from when he was platooning with the Canucks in 2014-15. Now on his third team, he was unable to continue the momentum from Mike Smith‘s win on Tuesday as the Flames lost 5-2 to the Blues. It was Lack’s first start of the season and he finished with only 24 saves. Not ideal for a first impression.
Ironically the guy Lack replaced in Calgary, Chad Johnson, also got lit up in his start for the Sabres on Wednesday. It was Johnson’s fourth start of the season and none of them have been great. He’s now given up 21 goals and has a .879 save percentage.
Both teams have climbed out of the basement of the standings after really slow starts to the season. But if they don’t get more consistent goaltending from their backups, they’ll begin tumbling down the standings agin.