Blues 2009 draft preview

By Robby Lewis

Top 10 prospects

1. Alex Pietrangelo, D 
2. T.J. Oshie, C 
3. Lars Eller, LW 
4. Ian Cole, D 
5. Aaron Palushaj, RW 
6. Jake Allen, G 
7. Philip McRae, C 
8. Ben Bishop, G 
9. Cade Fairchild, D 
10. Steve Wagner, D

The Blues made 25 straight playoff appearances from 1980 to 2004. But throughout this amazing streak, the team could never reach the promised land of a Stanley Cup try. After the lockout, the new salary cap made the Blues realize they would have to bid farewell to key stars. In doing so, St. Louis knew rough seasons would follow, including three straight years of missing the playoffs. But with bad seasons come high draft picks. The Blues’ front office has done a great job drafting, and because of this, Hockey’s Future has ranked the Blues’ prospects number one in the NHL.

Back in the playoffs this year, the 2009 draft is another chance for the Blues to add to their prospect pool, albeit from the middle of the room instead of the front.

Team Needs

At the moment, the Blues still lack the firepower to get the puck past NHL elite goalies. The Vancouver Canucks swept the Blues in the first round of the playoffs, largely because Brad Boyes remains the Blues’ only true sniper. The team has a lot of young prospects, but they need more firepower balanced out throughout their lines.

St. Louis also needs more scoring out of their defensemen. Barret Jackman led Blues defensemen with four goals and Carlo Colaiacovo had the most points, scoring 29 after coming over in a trade with Toronto. With Erik Johnson returning from injury, and Alex Pietrangelo on the rise, this problem could be fixed from within.

A reliable backup goaltender for Chris Mason would also help. Mason did not get any nights off while the Blues were fighting for their playoff lives, and this lack of rest did him no favors when the playoffs started.

Organizational Strengths

The Blues biggest organizational strength is their depth. They have a lot of young talent on their team now, and they have a lot of young talent that is very close to being NHL ready.

Lars Eller, Aaron Palushaj, Philip McRae and Brett Sonne all have the potential to be top-six forwards. Eller is arguably the best two-way prospect out there, and Palushaj made great strides with the University of Michigan and was signed by the Blues in April because of his great passing ability. Sonne was named WHL Player of the Year after scoring 48 goals and adding 52 assists in 62 games with the Calgary Hitmen. None of these prospects are can’t miss, but all are quality.

On the back line, the sky is the limit for top defensive prospect Alex Pietrangelo, who will likely be given every opportunity to make the team in the fall.

At goaltender, the Blues have Jake Allen, Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz in their system. All three are very streaky and need more time in the AHL before they can make the permanent jump. But Allen and Bishop have high potential.

Organizational Needs

The position the Blues will likely address during the draft will be forward, specifically acquiring a sniper and a power forward. David Perron, T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund all display great vision and solid playmaking skills, but aside from Perron at times, none of them have the great shot. Brad Boyes remains the Blues’ only true sniper, and it is likely the Blues will draft a player who fits this bill.

Other than Keith Tkachuk, the Blues do not have a big power forward that can put up huge offensive numbers. David Backes comes close, but he does not have the offensive talent that Tkachuk once possessed. The Blues need a player who can replace Tkachuk when he retires.

Draft Tendencies

The Blues have one of the top draft gurus in Jarmo Kekalainen, who serves as Assistant GM and Director of Scouting. Kekalainen has shown he will always take the best player on the Blues’ draft board as opposed to the popular pick. In 2005, when the Blues drafted T.J. Oshie it was deemed by some pundits as a reach. But he has quickly proven Kekalainen right and if the draft were held over again, Oshie would likely be a top-10 pick.

St. Louis is also not shy of trading on draft day. Draft-day trades have brought the organization Doug Weight, as well as the picks that were used on David Backes and Lee Stempniak. With surplus of defensemen on the roster, it is foreseeable that the Blues may be willing to part with a defenseman in order to fill some holes or gain picks in the draft.

The Blues do not favor one geography for their players. Last season, they drafted just two players from Europe, but this is no indication of what might happen this year.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft result: No. 17 Zack Kassian, RW – Peterborough (OHL)

Kassian is drafted to be the heir to Keith Tkachuk. Kassian’s stock rose immensely after scoring 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points in 61 games — a 42-point-improvement from last season in three more games. Kassian also racked up 136 penalty minutes. Kassain uses his big body to score goals and does not shy away from bigger players.