The St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild met Tuesday night in the Blues’ fourth preseason game of the year. As fans began to file into the arena, they were greeted with a live performance from Nick Gusman and the Coyotes. This was the first game between these two clubs since May 12, 2022, when the Blues knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in a 5-1 victory. The Wild came to St. Louis with a perfect 4-0 record outscoring their opponents 22-7.
Neighbours & Leivo Making Case For Roster Spot
As the preseason winds down, competition for roster spots is beginning to heat up. In what should be a spot for Klim Kostin, the Blues’ first-round pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, has begun to see others surpass him on the depth chart. Prospect forward Jake Neighbours and 29-year-old Josh Leivo have made positive impressions through the preseason putting themselves in contention to earn a spot for the team’s opening night lineup. At this time, there are not many spots available for contention with the Blues entering the season with a very veteran-heavy lineup. The 26th overall pick from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft earned himself a nine-game tryout last season but was ultimately sent back to the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he captained the Edmonton Oil Kings in a championship-winning season.
While Leivo played only seven games in the NHL last season, scoring one goal and three points, he has made a name for himself in exhibition play. He undertook a larger role during the game playing on the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Pavel Buchnevich, filling in for the sick Vladimir Tarasenko in an opportunity he did not take lightly. With only 1:05 expired in the game, he made a crisp back-handed pass to Buchnevich who hurried a one-timer to take an early 1-0 lead. As the game went on, Leivo’s name was consistently called by the announcers through his scoring chances and pressure in the offensive zone.
Hofer Keeps Blues Alive in Lopsided Third Period
Though he only played the final 20 minutes of regulation, Blues prospect goaltender Joel Hofer made an impression and a substantial impact on the outcome of the preseason game. After the team dominated the second period by scoring one goal and outshooting the Wild 15-3, the Minnesota squad returned the favor and controlled a majority of the play through the third period. The Blues were tested throughout the period with him allowing little opportunities for the Wild to capitalize on their chances. Defensive breakdowns and a lack of competition left the Blues relying on their 22-year-old netminder to come to their rescue. As the game came to a close, fans witnessed a shot attempt by Hofer that came within inches of scoring in what could have been a rare feat in the NHL. This past postseason, he scored a goal during the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The goaltender has shown signs of maturity and improvement in his play, but still has plenty to work on this season in the American Hockey League. Rebound control and consistency will be key to his development as he looks to contend for a backup role over the next year or two in St. Louis.
Jost & Rossi Continue to Impress for Wild
While the Wild may have lost the game and snapped their preseason winning streak, the Wild gave the Blues plenty of fits. Led by Jake Middleton and Mitchell Chaffee, they out-hit the Blues 37-16 and successfully prevented five of the team’s six power play opportunities. In a game that could have easily resulted in a comeback victory or even a push for overtime play, the Wild did everything they could to help give their team a chance to win throughout the final 20 minutes.
After a spirited end to the second period that saw Klim Kostin and Mason Shaw in fisticuffs, Shaw managed to get the Wild on the board in the third period. On a quick shot from Wild prospect Marco Rossi, Shaw seized the opportunity and scored on the rebound given up by Hofer that brought their team within two goals with more than 10 minutes left to play in the game. Though the team’s efforts would not result in a victory, the Wild also received a late goal from Tyson Jost with 41 seconds left in the game. Jost has impressed over the preseason scoring three goals and six points over four games.
The Blues will take to the road and square off once more against the Columbus Blue Jackets in their second meeting of the preseason on Thursday, Oct. 6 before meeting on opening night. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 PM CST.
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.