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Healthy Kyrou taking advantage of trust placed upon him by coaches

"Ever since the end of last year, my mindset is to come in and do my thing and compete hard. I just want to be in the lineup all year and help this team win."

ST. LOUIS — First, there was a quick stick-handle in tight before scoring, then a precise one-timer into the top corner amid tight coverage.

This was part of Jordan Kyrou's night on Sunday during the Blues' final scrimmage, a glimpse of what could be when the season opens Wednesday in Colorado.

It's a small sample size, but at the start of training camp this season, Kyrou, a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, was given a set of keys to unlock the path towards a potential permanent spot among the ranks of Blues forwards, particularly a top-nine role.

He was expected to come into camp this season and perhaps battle it out with the likes of Sammy Blais and Zach Sanford for a role and ice time, and it's played out like that, but the 22-year-old Kyrou has shown the kind of progress the coaching staff has been searching for, and just two days away, has been a part of one of the more consistent lines thus far with Sanford and veteran Tyler Bozak.

"I'm really excited," Kyrou said. "... They're both terrific players, they're both smart players. We feed off each other well and it's easy to play with those guys.

"It's been my No. 1 goal. Ever since the end of last year, my mindset is to come in and do my thing and compete hard. I just want to be in the lineup all year and help this team win... We're building chemistry as a line. As a team, we've obviously got a couple new guys, so everyone's kind of adjusting still and these two games we've had were good. It was good compete level, good intensity."

Kyrou was able to take a Sanford feed from the corner, and in tight space, quickly stick-handle to his forehand before snapping a shot past Jordan Binnington in the first period, then beating Binnington again off a setup from Bozak with a quick shot from the slot in the third.

The Blues are expected to get the offense from the top six, but getting that balance and depth scoring from the bottom six, including that third line, will be a big boost if Kyrou can produce in a fashion like he did while at the junior level in Sarnia when he had 69 goals and 203 points his final two seasons.

"(Kyrou brings) high-end speed and agility and puck play," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "He was one of the top forwards in Canada for a couple years putting up big numbers point-wise in junior. He's got great speed and real good puck play, shoot and pass. He kind of can do it all. He's going to (be able) to do that stuff in the NHL. He's going to get there. He's going to get confident enough and get the minutes and the games under his belt where he's going to be a good offensive player, I believe, in this league, but at the same time, he's got to learn the 200-foot game, which I think he's doing.

"Jordan's skating well. He's got good jump out there and he's got good speed. That line ended up getting a couple goals (Sunday)."

The 26-year-old Sanford has been in a similar position with the Blues since they acquired him from Washington in 2017, and he's gotten that boost from playing with veteran-savvy players, including Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron last season. Sanford produced an NHL career-high 16 goals and 30 points last season.

Now tasked with helping Kyrou along the same way, he and Bozak could benefit from the speed and skill Kyrou can offer the line.

"It's been awesome the first few days of camp playing with Bozie and Kyrou," Sanford said. "I think the first couple of days, we were figuring each other out, but the last few days of practice, we've been connected and making some plays and really starting to learn how each other play and where each other are. We're pretty excited to get into some game action with them.

"He's super-skilled, super-fast. He's young still, he's still figuring a lot of things out, as am I, and as I was when I was in my first couple years in the league. I think his responsibility with the puck has grown a lot. For me skating with him the last few days, it's been good for me to learn his speed and his tendencies. I think for me picking up on those little things he has and the speed he has, it's made the game easier for me too."

Kyrou, who's boosted himself up to 195 pounds from the 185 he played at last season, received the boost in confidence by the coaching staff giving him the opportunity right from the start, and getting a full offseason to train and get himself prepared, unlike last season when he was battling a knee injury that hampered his progress last season early.

"Having that trust in a player and you know that the coaching staff wants you to succeed, it definitely gives you confidence and gives you a little life," O'Reilly said. "I think he's done a great job and (Sunday) scored some beautiful goals. You can see the way he's playing away from the puck. He's being heavier and he's playing that style and he's only going to be more effective. It's nice to see that and see him developing into the player that he is."

Kyrou's challenge has never been about his offensive instincts. But in the NHL, and on this team, playing at a consistent level on both sides of the puck is what will keep him in the lineup, what he does position-wise and how he manages the puck. Playing with the kind of competitiveness the coaches are looking for will be the telltale of how Kyrou, who has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 44 NHL games, handles this opportunity.

"Everyone knows that's Chief's biggest thing is being tenacious on the puck and being really competitive and strong," Kyrou said. "I've gotten a lot stronger over the offseason. I feel stronger, I feel stronger on the ice and it's going to help me in my battles."

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