While Jake Allen has enjoyed a long run as the St. Louis Blues’ top prospect since Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz graduated, the time has come for the young goaltender to pass the torch. The key additions to the Fall 2014 Top 20 include the Blues’ top two picks from the 2014 NHL Draft, Robby Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev. As new players make their way onto the list, others like Yannick Veilleux, Petteri Lindbohm and Sergei Andronov have been forced to take a back seat in the latest edition of the Blues’ Top 20.
1. (NR) Ivan Barbashev, C, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 33rd overall, 2014
Considered a steal as a second round pick, Ivan Barbashev has demonstrated incredible skill in all areas of the game. He is an impressive playmaker and has good finishing skills to complement his offensive game. Barbashev also has a competitive spirit and is not afraid of playing at both ends of the ice.
Barbashev put up 62 points in 68 games as a QMJHL rookie and topped that mark with 68 points in 48 games in 2013-14. Due to his skill set and playing style, it would be pretty farfetched to think Barbashev could compete for an NHL spot this season, as the Blues would likely want him in a top-six role. There is simply too much talent on St. Louis’ current roster, and another year of junior hockey will give Barbashev all the confidence he needs going into 2015-16. Expect Barbashev to have a big year with the Moncton Wildcats in 2014-15.
2. (3) Jordan Binnington, G, 8.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 88th overall, 2011
Quite possibly the most impressive Blues’ prospect over the past few seasons, Jordan Binnington has shined in the OHL and ECHL, which makes him the favorite to start for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL in 2014-15. His breakthrough came during his stay with the Owen Sound Attack and, if it were not for the impressive goalie depth in the Blues’ system, Binnington could have seen much more AHL action last season.
Playing for the Kalamazoo Wings, Binnington maintained a 2.35 goals against average and .922 save percentage through 40 games. He has shown tremendous athleticism, good positional play and great hockey sense. He will have a chance to prove himself at the next level as he joins the AHL ranks in 2014-15.
3. (1) Jake Allen, G, 7.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2008
On many other teams in the NHL, Jake Allen may have already gotten his chance to take over a starting role. However, in St. Louis, Allen has progressed well over the last few seasons and should fight for starts with Brian Elliot in the NHL. He was the top prospect going into the summer and should hit graduation by the next Top 20 rankings.
Allen had a very impressive season as the Chicago Wolves’ starter in 2013-14, posting a record of 33-16-3, with a 2.03 goals against average and .928 save percentage. He has proven himself at all levels outside of the NHL and seems poised to take on a full-time role as an NHL goaltender.
4. (4) Ty Rattie, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2011
Ty Rattie is a player who seems to score at any level of hockey he plays. After absolutely dominating the WHL ranks, Rattie slid into the AHL relatively comfortably and came away with 31 goals in 72 games in 2013-14. His offensive skills are unquestionable and his ability to perform well in big moments is a unique asset. Given his smaller frame, however, Rattie has a lot of work to do in the strength and skating department to be effective in the NHL. For now, Rattie will try to continue to grow into a complete player in the AHL, and he will be a major part of the Wolves’ offense in 2014-15.
5. (NR) Robby Fabbri, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2014
Another fresh face making his debut in the Blues’ Top 20, Robby Fabbri brings some much needed skill and depth at the center position. Going into the 2014 NHL Draft the center position was easily the Blues’ weakest in the pipeline, but the addition of Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev has helped bolster the Blues’ system. Fabbri has been a major contributor for the very successful Guelph Storm in the OHL and will likely stay there for one more season. His competitiveness is through the roof, and his leadership skills, along with his offensive abilities, have helped put his name on the map. Look for Fabbri to have another strong season with the Storm in 2014-15.
6. (7) Jordan Schmaltz, D, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2012
A stand-out player at the NCAA level, Jordan Schmaltz has been growing into a strong offensive-defenseman at the University of North Dakota. Schmaltz scored 24 points in 41 games last season and should be poised for even better numbers in 2014-15. He has been honing his skills from the point and is a force on the powerplay. He does need to work on his defensive play and increase his strength if he hopes to have the same success in the NHL. For now, he will continue to gain more responsibility at the college level as he becomes more of a leader to his younger teammates.
7. (5) Tommy Vannelli, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2013
A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Tommy Vannelli began his WHL career last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers and proved to be a force as a rookie. He scored 41 points, including 14 goals, in 60 games from the blueline. With a very similar skill set to Jordan Schmaltz, Vannelli has great puck skills and passing ability, but he will need to fill into his frame before he has any chance at succeeding in the pros. For the 2014-15 season Vannelli will continue to hone his skills and become a more complete player in the WHL.
8. (NR) Maxim Letunov, C, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2014
The third player drafted by St. Louis in 2014, and another 2014 pick making his debut in the Blues’ Top 20, Maxim Letunov has shown tremendous skills for his age at the USHL level. He scored 43 points in 60 games as a rookie and is a Boston University commit for 2015-16. While the Blues’ took a major chance on Letunov, the upside of his offensive skill is immense, and he will have plenty of time to prepare his game for the professional level. He will also have to put a major focus on getting bigger and improving his two-way game if he hopes to become a reliable NHL player in the future.
9. (2) Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2011
Falling significantly in this edition of the Blues’ Top 20, Dmitrij Jaskin still finds himself in the top 10 after a productive rookie season in the AHL. Jaskin has been consistently good since coming over from the Czech Republic, and he scored 29 points in 42 games as an AHL rookie. Though an NHL spot seems highly unlikely in 2014-15, Jaskin will benefit from a top-six role with the Chicago Wolves. If he can take his offensive game to the next level while maintaining his sound two-way play, Jaskin could find himself ranked higher in the spring Top 20.
10. (9) Colton Parayko, D, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2012
As a sophomore in the NCAA, Colton Parayko continued developing his game after scoring 17 points in 33 games as a rookie. Last season, Parayko put up 26 points in 37 games and seems poised to take on a much larger role in 2014-15. He has a good frame and projects to have the size to be a defenseman at the professional level. A big concern with his game is whether his offensive production will follow him to the pros, but another two years of college experience to improve his reliability and consistency will make him a better all-around player and therefore give him a better shot at playing at the professional level.
11. (18) David Shields, D, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2009
After a disappointing start to his professional career, David Shields has made all the right strides over the past two seasons and seems poised to breakout as a significant contributor for the Chicago Wolves in 2014-15. He has taken on a much larger role for the Wolves’ blueline, especially in 2013-14, and seems to be one of the few defensemen with some signs of an offensive upside. If he can continue to demonstrate all-around skill while taking on more responsibility, Shields may be one of the first defensemen on this list to see NHL action. For now, he will need to show consistency in his game while he continues to develop at the AHL level.
12. (NR) Jake Walman, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 82nd overall, 2014
Coming out of the Junior A level, Jake Walman has committed to Providence College of the NCAA and will be joining the college ranks in 2014-15. He put up very solid numbers in the OJHL but it remains to be seen how his game transitions to the college level as a freshman. He is an extremely raw talent and is slightly undersized for the NHL. He will have the next four years to gain experience as an all-around player and improve his muscle mass.
13. (NR) Ville Husso, G, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2014
A player who could be a steal in this year’s draft, Ville Husso had outstanding numbers as a rookie in the SM-liiga and seems to be the go-to-guy for the powerhouse squad Jokerit Helsinki. Though his record was just 19-14-5 in 41 games, Husso maintained a 1.99 goals against average and .923 save percentage. While the skill is definitely there, he is still a very raw talent and will need to prove himself in the coming season before he decides to make his way to North America.
14. (NR) Santeri Saari, D, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 173rd overall, 2013
Another raw talent who is still quite young, Santeri Saari is another Blues prospect who played for Jokerit Helsinki. Saari, however, only played two games for the club back in 2012-13. He spent most of his time on loan to Kiekko-Vantaa of the Mestis league. This season, Saari will be joining Jokerit of the KHL and seems poised to become a mainstay on the blueline. One of his major assets to his development is playing at a high level of hockey as a teenager, as he will be joining the KHL at the age of 19. If he can improve his all-around game while finding an offensive touch, Saari could be a nice surprise for the Blues in the future.
15. (NR) Niklas Lundstrom, G, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 132nd overall, 2011
Of all the goalies in the Blues’ pipeline, Niklas Lundstrom may have the most to prove heading into the 2014-15 season. Showing signs of impressive skill in 2012-13, Lundstrom fell off tremendously last season, getting demoted to the lower division and playing just two games for AIK of the Swedish Hockey League. The good news for the Blues is that Lundstrom was still able to dominate at the U-20 level and will be making his way to North America to play for the Chicago Wolves in 2014-15.
16. (12) Ryan Tesink, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 162nd overall, 2011
Ryan Tesink has shown signs of tremendous play at some points, but has lacked consistency for most of his career. While injury problems have plagued him for most of his career, Tesink was able to play in 47 games last season, the most since 2010-11. Making the jump to the AHL, Tesink will have to get stronger on his feet and stay healthy. He has always had a good energy level and is a solid forechecker. While he should get a chance with the Wolves in 2014-15, he will need to find a consistent offensive game as he becomes a more well-rounded and reliable hockey player.
17. (8) Jani Hakanpaa, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2010
While his offensive game is slowly improving, Jani Hakanpaa brings a very gritty and hard-nosed style of play to the blueline and displayed sound defensive skill last season with the Chicago Wolves. His eight points were a career high in North America and his plus-20 rating was probably his most impressive stat from 2013-14. He has a massive frame and can throw the body with the best of them. Due to the new additions in the pipleline, Hakanpaa finds himself falling in the rankings. However, if he continues to show a solid defensive game and improves on his offensive numbers, Hakanpaa could be poised for a higher rank in the next Top 20.
18. (6) Joel Edmundson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 46th overall, 2011
Playing as a rookie in the AHL in 2013-14, Edmundson showed an impressive defensive game but scored just eight points in 64 games. However, with a total of 108 penalty minutes last season, it is evident that discipline is a major issue. He has a good frame for the position and is also a good hitter like his teammate Hakanpaa. Going into the 2014-15 season, Edmundon must focus on becoming a smarter player if he hopes to garner more responsibility as the season progresses.
19. (NR) Jaedon Descheneau, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2014
It is not every year you see a 98 point-scorer fall to the fifth round, but Jaedon Descheneau did, and it is his lack of size and strength that kept teams from picking him. He was a force in his last two seasons of WHL hockey, and he is nearly ready to join the professional ranks. If he hopes to carry his offensive game to the next level, he will need to improve his overall strength, skating, and defensive game to become a more complete player. With that being said, Descheneau will likely spend his final season at the junior level to hone his skills.
20. (NR) Austin Poganski, RW, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall, 2014
Rounding out the Top 20 is another newly drafted player making his debut on the list. Austin Poganski is still just 18 years old but was able to score 31 points as a rookie in the USHL. Poganski will be joining fellow St. Louis prospect Jordan Schmaltz at the University of North Dakota in 2014-15, which should help both Blues prospects gain some chemistry together. Poganski has good size and has shown a sufficient offensive game early in his career. His skating is especially impressive and should continue to be his main asset. As a college freshman, Poganski should focus on becoming a reliable offensive player while improving his overall defensive game.