BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Zak Jones of the Saints kicks during the AFL Second Elimination Final match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at The Gabba on October 03, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

After a disappointing 2021 regression compounded by injuries to key contributors, St Kilda senior coach Brett Ratten and his Saints head into a hopeful 2022 campaign with a young and prospering list.

After the retirements of Jake Carlisle, Dylan Roberton, James Frawley and Shaun McKernan at the conclusion of last season, the Saints instantly become younger and less experienced, and with ex-skipper Jarryn Geary in his twilight years, St Kilda will need its young guns to start stepping up into leadership roles alongside fan favourite Jack Steele.

We preview St Kilda's list and make a call on their best 22 for the season ahead.

Ins: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (National Draft), Marcus Windhager (National Draft), Michito Owens (National Draft), Oscar Adams (National Draft), Jack Peris (Rookie Draft), Josiah Kyle (Rookie Draft) and Tom Campbell (Delisted Free Agent).

Outs: Jake Carlisle (Retired), James Frawley (Retired), Dylan Roberton (Retired), Shaun McKernan (Retired), Luke Dunstan (Melbourne), Jack Lonie (Delisted), Paul Hunter (Delisted), Oscar Clavarino (Delisted) and Sam Alabakis (Delisted).

Defenders

Compensating for the Carlisle/Roberton/Frawley trio won't be an easy task, but with impressive key stoppers Callum Wilkie and Dougal Howard firmly in place, the Saints' defensive talls are in good shape as a whole.

Geary, a former club captain, provides veteran experience and leadership for a young and inexperienced defence, which also boasts runners Jack Sinclair and Nick Coffield on the flanks and the hard-nosed Hunter Clark.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 24: Nicholas Coffield and Hunter Clark of the Saints pose during the 2017 AFL Draft at Sydney Showgrounds on November 24, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Ben Paton, Daniel McKenzie, Tom Highmore and veteran Jimmy Webster will also be pushing for selection across half-back in defence.

Midfielders

On paper, the Saints enter 2022 with a strong midfield core, with skipper Jack Steele, inside ball-winner Brad Crouch, the hard-running Zak Jones and veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder leading the way.

The Saints are also set on the wings, with the composed Sebastian Ross and elite-running Bradley Hill able to stretch the field with ease, while top draftee Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera will add exciting depth out wide.

Majority-forwards Jack Billings and Jade Gresham also have the ability to push through the midfield and wings at times, giving Ratten a lot of strategic flexibility.

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Jack Billings of the Saints kicks the ball during the 2018 AFL round six match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the St Kilda Saints at UTAS Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Jack Bytel, who played 13 out of his 16 career games last season, offers hope as an improving young midfielder, while the often-injured Dan Hannebery also figures to feature frequently this season if he can stay on the field.

Forwards

The Saints have an abundance of tall forward options as they embark on a new campaign, with marquee-man Max King leading the way and Tim Membrey, Rowan Marshall and Cooper Sharman all also set to be in the fray.

With smalls Gresham, Billings, Dan Butler and Jack Higgins all roaming the forward-line menacingly, St Kilda's forward brigade has the potential to be lethal, assuming forward entries are improved upon from last year.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 29: Jack Higgins of the Saints celebrates a goal during the round 11 AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on May 29, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

However, beyond Gresham, Billings, Butler and Higgins, there isn't a whole heap of small forward depth at Moorabbin, with Ben Long (who was trialled as a defensive forward last year) and long-time fringe player Mason Wood looming as the main alternate options after Jack Lonie was delisted at the end of 2021.

Best 22

FB: Jarryn Geary, Callum Wilkie, Nick Coffield
HB: Hunter Clark, Dougal Howard, Jack Sinclair
C: Sebastian Ross, Zak Jones, Bradley Hill
HF: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Jack Billings
FF: Dan Butler, Max King, Jack Higgins
FOL: Paddy Ryder, Jack Steele, Brad Crouch
I/C: Rowan Marshall, Dan Hannebery, Ben Paton, Jack Bytel

EMERG: Daniel McKenzie, Cooper Sharman, Tom Highmore, Ben Long