Jaden Schwartz set to ignite Blues offense next season.
If you were a poolie looking to boost the offensive statistics on your fantasy squad, the St. Louis Blues probably wouldn’t be the first place you would look. The team had just one player exceed 30 points in 2013 and watching them play under Ken Hitchcock is sometimes like taking a time machine back to 1995 and the dead puck era. His defense first, defense second, and if there’s anything left defense third system is great for winning games, but doesn’t always help fantasy hockey enthusiasts. And if you are longing for the day that Hitchcock finally calls it quits, the fact that he once took the Columbus Blue Jackets to the playoffs probably ensures he will have a job available somewhere as long as he wants.
Despite the lack of offensive creativity in St. Louis, the Blues are starting to compile some bright young talent that will soon be hard to ignore. Vladimir Tarasenko impressed with 19 points as a rookie last season, but even more intriguing could be Jaden Schwartz’s outlook for 2013-14.
Schwartz was highly touted coming out of Colorado College and the Blues made him a first round pick in 2010. He posted 88 points in just 60 collegiate games and possesses a skill set that should translate to some major production at the National Hockey League level. Since then however, he has played sparingly with St. Louis and posted minimal results, but there is reason to believe that next season he could be poised to do some big things.
The young winger managed just 13 points in 45 games last year and finished as a minus-4. Those numbers aren’t going to have poolies doing flips, but it’s important to keep in mind he only averaged just over 12 minutes of ice per game. The recent trade that sent David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers figures to open up more ice-time and power play chances for Schwartz and the Blues’ other young forwards. Skilled players like Schwartz and Tarasenko should see their development accelerated given a more featured role going forward.
Not only that, there were already indications that Schwartz was going to be provided with more playing time in the future. His minutes jumped up to 16 per game in last year’s playoffs and he was one of the Blues’ best skaters in their series against the Los Angeles Kings. Seeing his minutes jump up by four per game from the regular season is a good indication for Schwartz owners that he will be featured more in 2013-14.
Schwartz also saw his line-mates change during the post-season and that could lead to more points if he sticks with this group. He played with David Backes and Alexander Steen nearly 65% of the time during the playoffs, compared to the regular season where he was moved around constantly and never skated with the same group for more than 20% of the time. Backes and Steen were two of the top three scorers for the Blues last season, so if Schwartz sticks with them next year his numbers should shoot up.
To further elaborate on the benefits on this line change for Schwartz, just take a look at the difference in his shot on goal totals. During the 2013 regular season he was averaging just over one shot per contest, but in the series against the Kings those numbers jumped up to over two shots a night. Shots on net are usually a good indicator of the odds of someone’s production going up or down. Obviously the more shots you are getting, the better your chances of finding the back of the net and picking up assists via rebounds and deflections.
Another factor that should help Schwartz, and the rest of the Blues for that matter, is the new conference alignment for 2013-14. St. Louis finds itself in arguably the weakest division at the moment or as I like to call it, the “New Southeast.” The Central has just three teams that cracked the post-season last year and that’s including the Minnesota Wild who just snuck in. Sure the Chicago Blackhawks are still a powerhouse, but the rest of the teams figure to be in rebuild mode. This should mean some favourable matchups for the Blues and their skaters.
It’s always a risk raising your expectations for a player who hasn’t accomplished much but has great potential. As we have seen with many young players in the past, some simply just don’t pan out and drive organizations as well as fantasy owners nuts. However, the old adage nothing ventured, nothing gained really applies to fantasy hockey. Sometimes those that have the best success are the ones who take a risk on someone that has an opportunity to make a major impact. If you are one of those that are willing to take a chance, Schwartz may be the guy to bet on.
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