Blues AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Maciej Chabelski

This season’s Peoria Rivermen disappointed, failing to make the playoffs and setting a franchise record in losses (42 losses, 33 of them in regulation). The Rivermen also set a club record with 248 goals allowed. In total, over 40 different players wore the Rivermen jersey during a 2009-10 season filled with high turnover.

The Alaska Aces ended their season on a low note, surrendering five goals in a span of seven minutes, losing to the Stockton Thunder in their opening playoff round. It was the team’s first postseason elimination in the month of April since the 2004 postseason.

With the St. Louis Blues failing to make the playoffs, and only Lars Eller making his NHL debut from their professional prospect pool, the club is hoping for better returns out of their farm club next season.

AHL — Peoria Rivermen

Brett Sonne, C
5’11, 200 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2007, 85th overall
After a dominant 100-point season with the Calgary Hitmen in 2008-09, there were big expectations for the BC native. Despite getting ample power-play time, Sonne only managed only 11 goals (13 assists) for the entire season and was streaky in his scoring. His -15 rating also showed that his defense needs significant work. But his 77 games played proved that he can use his rambunctious style and stay off the injured list, despite missing some time with an upper-body injury. Sonne will be 21 later this month.

Lars Eller, C
6’1, 198 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2007, 13th overall
The shifty Dane’s shook off the disappointment of not making the Blues out of training camp and had a great rookie season with the Rivermen. Eller finished second on the Rivermen in goals (18), assists (39) and points (57). The two-way pivot also saw some time with the Blues, scoring two goals in a seven-game trial. The 21-year-old will get a fair shot at making the Blues next season as a top-six forward, particularly with the opening at center created by retirement of Keith Tkachuk.

Nicholas Drazenovic, C
6’1, 200 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2005, 171st overall
The swift skater nearly doubled his goal output (12 to 19) and improved on his point total (33 to 39) in 2009-10, despite missing a significant part of the season due to injury. Drazenovic, 23, continues to avoid contact at the professional level, despite having the size to succeed in the corners, and will need to work on the physical side of his game in order to make the jump to the big club.   

Chris Porter, LW
6’1, 210 lbs
Acquired: 2007, Free agent
With a lot of heart and grit, the Thunder Bay native continues to disappoint offensively with the Rivermen. Despite getting a lot of ice time, he managed only 31 points in 80 games played. After seeing time with the Blues in 2008-09, Porter saw no time in 2009-10. On the bright side, the Toronto native set a career mark with 13 goals this season with Peoria. Porter will be 26 later this month and looks like a depth player going forward.

Ryan Reaves, RW
6’2, 193 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2005, 156th overall
Reaves’ 167 penalty minutes this season far and away led the Rivermen, as he played the role of team enforcer well. Reaves skating is considered mediocre but efficient, and he scored 11 points (four goals) in 76 games this season. His -16 was the second worst on the team, however. A great team player, the 23-year-old may challenge for a pugilist position with the Blues next season. 

Pierre-Cedric Labrie, LW
6’2, 212 lbs
Acquired: 2010, trade with Vancouver
Acquired from the Vancouver Canucks during the March NHL trade deadline for forward Yan Statsny, Labrie added some hustle and toughness to the Rivermen down the stretch. The big Winger’s skating continues to hinder his development, however, and the 23-year-old is a restricted free agent this season, so he may not be back with the organization. Labrie had no goals and one assist in 16 games with the Rivermen this season.

Jonas Junland, D
6’2, 198 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2006, 64th overall
The talented Swedish rearguard continued his positive offensive development this season, leading Rivermen defensemen in goals (14), assists (30), and points (44), while also appearing in his second straight AHL All-Star game. His +4 was the best plus/minus among prospects on the Rivermen. A solid skater with a good, accurate shot, the defenseman also saw time with the Blues this season (three games, two assists) but needs to improve on his strength to make the jump to the next level. However, the Blues may not have a spot for him on the blue line next season, with higher-profile prospects like Alex Pietrangelo, Ian Cole, and David Runblad all ahead of him on the depth chart. The 22-year-old has signed a contract back home in Sweden with Farjestad for next season.

TJ Fast, D
6’1, 190 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2005, 60th overall
After starting the season with the Alaska Aces, the Fast was reassigned to the Rivermen. The Calgary native racked up an impressive 31 points in 46 games for the Aces, but only had one point in 18 games for the Rivermen. A potential NHL power-play quarterback with good vision and great speed, the 22-year-old Fast will need seasoning in the AHL before making the jump.

Joe Fallon, G
6’3, 190 lbs
Acquired: 2010, Trade with Chicago
Fallon was acquired during the March NHL trade deadline for fellow goaltender Hannu Toivonen and defenseman Danny Richmond. A former University of Vermont standout, the 25-year-old played in nine games for the Rivermen, amassing a respectable .889 save percentage and a 3.50 GAA. If fellow prospect Ben Bishop is promoted to the Blues in 2010, look for the 6’3 Fallon to be a front runner for the starting goaltender spot with the Rivermen next season. 

Ben Bishop, G
6’7, 216 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2005, 85th overall
Playing in front of a porous defense at Peoria, Bishop posted decent numbers (2.77 GAA, .901 save percentage), and benefited greatly from a renewed commitment to fitness and competitiveness. He became the undisputed No. 1 goaltender for the Rivermen when Hannu Toivonen was traded in March. The 6’7 goaltender still has the potential to be a good NHL tender. He should get a long look at Blues training camp next season, possibly as a backup to the yet-to-be re-signed Chris Mason.

ECHL – Alaska Aces

Ryan Turek, D
6’0, 185 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2006, 94th overall
Turek played in a career-high 60 games for the Aces this season, but racked up a disappointing 10 points in the process. The Michigan native also played some forward for the Aces, and has the versatility, two-way awareness, and speed to develop into a good role player for the Blues organization in the near future. Turek had a goal and four penalty minutes in four playoff games with the Aces. 

Anthony Peluso, RW
6’3, 222 lbs
Acquired: Drafted 2007, 160th overall
The big, tough winger split time between the AHL and ECHL this season, and was a vital part of the playoff-bound Aces down the stretch, contributing a goal and six penalty minutes in four playoff games with the Rivermen. He has great size, fighting and grinding skills, but adds very little in terms of offense. The 21-year-old projects as a role player. The former Erie Otter switched from defense to the wing in order to make better use of his grinding game.