The St. Louis Blues have a one year deal in place with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL. The Blues haven’t exactly had the best luck with ECHL franchises the past few seasons. The last stable relationship was with the Alaska Aces back in 2014. After a quiet “promotional deal” with the Kansas City Mavericks last season, the Blues once again found themselves without a home in the third tier of North American hockey. After a summer filled with plenty of mystery when it came to the minor league affiliations things have cleared up, at least for the time being. So who benefits the most when it comes to this ECHL deal? Both American league clubs the Blues are working with this season are going to be filled to the gills with young talent. The Oilers are 100% going to be the home for at least a few Blues prospects. But it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing.
As with any player in the minors things can always change but for now expect these players to prosper at the ECHL level.
Tommy Vannelli– Sadly at the pro level Vannelli has never reached what many thought would be his full potential. The 2012 second round pick was plagued with an upper body injury that caused him to miss most of the 2015-16 season. Only playing seven games. In 2016-17 the defenseman struggled to battle his way into the Chicago Wolves lineup and was sent to the Mavericks. The downward spiral didn’t show signs of slowing down till Vannelli laced his skates up for the Atlanta Gladiators, yes he was moved to another ECHL team. How will the 2017-18 season shake out? The 22 year old has one year left on his contract for 720k, he’s an RFA the following season. If Vannelli wants to stay in the Blues system he’s going to need to elevate his game, quite a bit. Minor league depth still serves a purpose and that seems to be Vannelli’s ceiling.
Conner Bleackley– The redrafted center often looked “lost” on the ice in the 45 games he played with the WOlves last season. Having just two goals to his name. Though thing did change after a move down to the Mavericks, Bleackley put up 17 poins in 14 games. Once again he faces an uphill battle for ice time at the AHL level, the lack of performing didn’t help his cause either. Look for Bleackley to start the season in Tulsa though a call up to the AHL isn’t out of the cards.
Luke Opilka– This one is interesting as Opilka is still eligible to return to the OHL if the Rangers want to use an overage spot on him. But the Rangers seem to have things lined in net pretty well for next season and it doesn’t look like Opilka is in the plans. Being only 20 Opilka is far from being ready for the AHL, so if he does dip his toes in the pro game, look for the Oilers to be his next destination.