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With the Stanley Cup final at an end, it’s officially time to close the book on 2017-18 and start tweaking your team for the 2018-19 campaign. Here are a few players that earned a taste of NHL action this past year, but could be in line for a bigger role and pay dividends this coming season.
Sammy Blais – STL
No player in the St. Louis organization has been as unheralded, or impressive, over the past couple of years than Sammy Blais. Not selected until the sixth round in 2014 when he was just one point shy of averaging a point-per-game in the QMJHL, Blais has been on an upward trajectory ever since. Post draft he put together back-to-back 82 point campaigns, mostly with the Victoriaville Tigres before a 2015 trade sent him to the Charlottetown Islanders who had an eye on a deep playoff run. Blais proved to be a shrewd add as he played 33 regular season games for the Islanders, registering 42 points, and led them in scoring in the playoffs with 19 points, including a team-best 15 helpers, in 12 playoff contests outscoring such notable teammates as Daniel Sprong and Filip Chlapik.
The most eye-opening thing about Blais has been how seamlessly he has adapted to pro hockey. As an AHL rookie in 2016-17, Blais found the back of the net 26 times, the second-best mark on the Chicago Wolves and second best among AHL rookies behind Mark Jankowski, and added 17 assists for 43 points in 75 games. An especially impressive figure as just six of those 43 points were secondary assists. Anyone expecting Blais to suffer a sophomore slump in 2017-18 was sorely mistaken as he had an even better year number two. He averaged nearly a point per game for the Blues new AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, as he was far and away from their most lethal offensive player. He finished second on the team in goals with 17, first in assists with 23, and second in points with 40. He finished just four points back of team leader Andrew Agozzino despite player 30 fewer games. The reason he played so few games for the Rampage is that he earned a call-up to the Blues for 11 games. Blais averaged less than 11 minutes of ice time per game scoring once and adding two helpers and showed that he wasn’t afraid to throw his body around either registering 15 hits. One of the better pure goal scorers in the system, he’s cert