Building off a breakthrough: Vince Dunn

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the St. Louis Blues.

In just his second year as a pro, Vince Dunn managed to leave his mark on the 2017-18 St. Louis Blues. The 21-year-old defenseman started his professional career by putting up an impressive 13 goals and 45 points in 72 AHL games in 2016-17. In his first full year in the NHL, he finished with five goals and 24 points in 75 games. He also averaged 17:14 of ice time. Not bad for his first year in the show.

Dunn is a modern day NHL defender. He’ll never be the biggest guy on the blueline (he’s 6-feet, 203 pounds), but he’s a slick skater that can move puck efficiently and pick up points from the back end. The 24 points he accumulated last season are a decent total, but he should be able to improve on those numbers as his career advances.

Heading into this season, he has a legitimate chance of being a top-four defenseman for the Blues. But, again, he’ll have to prove that he’s not going to fall into the trap that is the sophomore slump.

“I do look at Dunner as a guy that took a real positive step this year,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Dunner, it was a great season for him as far as, No. 1, earning the trust of the coaching staff, proving that he can play in this league, and then the confidence that he grew. You look at how his minutes went up, how his role went up, and that’s obviously a great accomplishment.

“That said, for as long as we can all remember, there have been an awful lot of players in this league that have come in and had a good first season and then taken a step backwards, so I think his offseason is going to be incredibly important and how he handles it. But I have no reason to believe that this is a guy that’s going to take a step backwards.”

[2017-18 review | Under Pressure: Allen | 3 Questions]

In an effort to shake up their lineup in the second half of the season, the Blues moved Dunn to the second pairing. There, he was paired with reliable defenseman Colton Parayko. If he has another strong training camp, he could end up being back there for the entire 2018-19 season.

If Dunn gets an opportunity to play 18 to 21 minutes per game on a regular basis this season, he could see his overall production increase in a big way in 2018-19.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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