During most NHL drafts, the St. Louis Blues have been known to capitalize on their draft picks, whether they have a first or not. The 2009 draft proved to be a different story for the Blues, as they were unable to pick worthwhile players with any of their six draft choices.
While the previous year had names like Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen, the 2009 NHL Draft picks have faded into other leagues and are far from an NHL opportunity. Even without Pietrangelo or Allen, the Blues are such a deep organization that every player needs to earn a place on the NHL roster. Most of the Blues’ prospects, outside of the elite, will have a serious amount of work to do if they ever hope to play at the top level. The Blues have world class talent at all positions and are in no position to give prospects a chance to play. With that said, their AHL production is extremely important when judging their capabilities and opportunities in the NHL.
When looking at previous and following draft years in more detail, the Blues should be quite disappointed with who they picked in 2009. They chose three defenseman and three forwards, all of which do not play in the NHL or were traded to another team.
David Rundblad, D, Skelleftea AIK (Elitserien) – 1st round, 12th overall
NHL Games: 50
Rundblad was actually a great pick for several reasons. Considering his production and skill set, it was not a bad pick for the Blues at the time. However, he never played a game for the Blues before getting traded, and it was for this reason the Blues ended up capitalizing on this pick.
Even though he had not played a game for the Blues, the value of the player was still high, and since the Blues were quite stacked on the blue line, trading the unproven prospect seemed like the best decision. Rundblad was traded to the Ottawa Senators for their 2010 first round pick, and what they got in return made up for this pick tenfold.
The Blues ended up drafting Vladimir Tarasenko with Ottawa’s first round pick. He is a well on his way to becoming a star and has already proven his skills during his very young NHL career. Rundblad, on the other hand, played in 24 games and amassed just four points for the Senators before getting traded to the Phoenix Coyotes. He spent time with the Portland Pirates and had a great year in his second AHL season. He scored nine goals and 30 assists in 50 games, but had just one assist in eight games after getting the call-up last season. In 50 career NHL games, Rundblad has scored just one goal and nine points, making the trade for Tarasenko that much better.
Starting the disappointing picks of 2009, Ponich came in as an all-around defenseman who was part of a very successful Winterhawks team. However, in his first two seasons of AHL hockey, he accumulated just five assists in 87 games. He was sent to the ECHL during his second season, scoring just one goal and two assists in 18 games and splitting time between the Evansville Icemen and the Alaska Aces.
This season, Ponich started with the Chicago Wolves, the new AHL affiliate of the Blues, but played in just four games and amassed no points. He is now playing for the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL and has scored just two goals and one assist in 33 games. He did not have much offensive upside coming into the pros, but was considered a brutal hitter and solid enforcer. Nevertheless, the Blues were hoping to draft a much more productive player with their second round pick, but have been forced to leave Ponich in the lower levels of hockey to develop. If he hopes to ever play in the NHL, he needs to show more ability outside of his penalty minutes and physical play.
Sergei Andronov, LW, Lada Togliatti (KHL) – 3rd round, 78th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Andronov played in the KHL for an extended period of time before making his way to North America. He split time between Lada Togliatti and CSKA Moscow, and he showed solid hands and good skating ability. His point totals were not very impressive, but he was a consistent player who was much younger than his opponents. His most productive offensive season came in the 2009-10 season, where he split time between both KHL teams. In 52 total games, Andronov scored 10 goals and 12 assists.
Making his North American debut last season, Andronov was able to score eight goals and 11 assists in 59 games, showing he can be a good depth scorer at the AHL level. Andronov did not make the Blues this season and now plays for the Chicago Wolves. In 38 games, Andronov has scored 10 and seven assists, which is a solid start to his North American career.
To make the NHL, Andronov heeds to improve his two-way game and defensive zone awareness. His point production suggests that he is not a top line scorer, meaning he needs to show he can play a depth role and play well in his own zone. Till that point in time, Andronov will likely stay in the AHL for conditioning.
Tyler Shattock, RW/LW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – 4th round, 108 overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Shattock spent four seasons in the WHL before making his way to the professional ranks. He was a very productive player in the WHL but has not been able to muster the same kind of offense in the pros. He is your typical garbage collector and has demonstrated a great shot in the past. Coming in as a point-getter and solid two-way player, Shattock has not shown the same prowl in the AHL.
Shattock played in two seasons with the Peoria Rivermen after his junior eligibility concluded and scored 30 points in 132 games. While he remained consistent, the Blues have been hoping for a much more impressive player in the offensive zone. In 2012-13, Shattock spent time in the ECHL after a disappointing start to his AHL season. After scoring five points in three games, he was returned to the Rivermen and finished with 12 points in 62 games.
This season, Shattock is playing for the Wolves and seems to be finding his way as a professional player. In 38 games so far, he has scored three goals and eight assists, which puts him on pace for his career best at this level. Even more impressive, he is a plus-two player, which shows he is improving in the defensive zone. However, to have any shot at the NHL, Shattock needs to show he can keep his point production up while maintaining his responsibilities on defense.
Shields is actually an interesting case when judging his production over the last four and a half years. He was regarded as a natural stay-at-home defenseman who could throw the body and play a physical game. Proving to be a very effective defenseman as a junior player, Shields started his professional career with the Rivermen in 2011-12, but split time between the AHL and ECHL. He had just four assists and a minus-four rating in 48 AHL games but was able to score one goal and five assists in 12 ECHL games. His ECHL time was a great learning experience which forced him to pick up his game at the AHL level.
Though he did spend time in the ECHL the previous year, Shields actually had a worse season in 2012-13. He collected just five assists in 59 games with the Rivermen and was a disappointing minus-nine. Due to his natural roll as a stay-home defenseman, he was not able to fully prove himself as a responsible and effective player. However, Shields seems to have made some significant strides in his all-around game. In 43 games so far with the Wolves, Shields has an impressive five goals and six assists while posting a plus-eight rating. This is the type of player that could have an impact at the NHL level if he continues to have success in the AHL.
While he started out quite slow, his numbers in 2013-14 are extremely impressive for a sixth round pick. He has always been regarded as a defensive zone specialist, but has shown great improvement on offense. He is currently on pace to smash his previous career highs and could get a look next season if he keeps it up. For now, Shields should continue to improve as his chance at the NHL grows stronger.
Max Tardy, C, Duluth East (MN HS) – 7th round, 202nd overall
NHL Games: 0
After an impressive season in the USHL in 2009-10, Tardy elected to hit the college level to improve his game and get an education. Playing for his hometown college, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Tardy was drafted as a solid two-way player who could forecheck well and attack the net with confidence. Though he is small in size, Tardy enjoys playing a very fast and up-tempo game, using his speed to his advantage. However, as a college player, Tardy has had a very troublesome career and his NHL chances are definitely up in the air. As a rookie, Tardy managed just one goal and three assists in 26 games. Even worse, as a sophomore he scored just two goals and five assists in 41 games. His third season was even more disappointing, as he scored just one assist in 14 games.
The biggest concern with Tardy right now is he seems to be getting worse. So far in 2013-14, Tardy has one assist in 13 games and needs to pick up his game to have any chance of hitting the pros next season. He has good all-around ability but has yet to prove it at the college level. In an already weak position for the Blues, the center prospects are extremely important for the franchise’s future, and Tardy seems to be a distant option given his current production. His defensive abilities are not enough to warrant an NHL opportunity, and he will need to show significant improvement to have any success as a professional player.