Plenty of NCAA and European talent for the St. Louis Blues in 2014-15

By Suraj Sukumar
Jake Walman - St. Louis Blues

Photo: St. Louis Blues third-round pick Jake Walman’s three assists against Denver helped his Providence team into the Frozen Four. (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

The St. Louis Blues have never shied away from drafting at the NCAA and European level and continue to find success through the NHL Entry Draft. While some of their college prospects will be making their jump to the pros very soon, the Blues have found a way to replenish their pool of NCAA players for the near future.

In Europe, many of the Blues’ previous draft picks have made their way over to North America like Petteri Lindbohm and Niklas Lundstrom. There are only a few European prospects still playing overseas but they should also make their way to North America over the next few seasons, unless they choose to stay in Europe for the foreseeable future.

NCAA

Jordan Schmaltz, D, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 1st Round, 25th overall, 2012

By far the best NCAA prospect in the Blues’ pipeline, Schmaltz still has one more season of college eligibility but has shown readiness to move up to the next level. His point totals for a defenseman are very good and his ability to manage the power play will be a huge boost for the Chicago Wolves when his time comes around.

This season, Schmaltz had relatively the same success as last year, scoring four goals and 23 assists in 41 games. While he did top his 2013-14 totals of 24 points, it’s his improvement on the defensive side that must be addressed. His offensive skills and skating ability have always been his best assets, but he needed to show a better all-around game to improve his chance of success at the next level. As long has he continues to develop his two-way game, Schmaltz should be ready for the pros after completing his senior year next season.

Colton Parayko, D, University of Alaska-Fairbanks (WCHA)
Drafted 3rd Round, 86th overall, 2012

Drafted the same year as Schmaltz, Parayko was also in his third season of NCAA eligibility and has performed quite well over the course of his career. Having scored six goals and 17 assists in 34 games this season, Parayko got the call up to the AHL and has not disappointed. In 10 games played, Parayko has three goals and one assist with a plus-6 rating. His defensive abilities have earned him a successful start to his pro career and his offensive instincts are getting him on the score sheet as well. If the Wolves end up making the AHL playoffs, there may not be a better time for Parayko to prove himself as a pro before his senior year next season.

Mackenzie MacEachern, LW, Michigan State University (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd Round, 67th overall, 2012

Another 2012 draftee, MacEachern joins a solid group of NCAA prospects in the Blues system but is one of the few players at the forward position. Continuing off a strong freshman season, MacEachern played very well this season, scoring 11 goals and 15 assists in 35 games. He has the potential to be a dynamic goal scorer but will need to continue developing his overall skill. He is a good skater and has good instincts around the net, but will need to add a better defensive game to become a complete player. MacEachern still has two more seasons of NCAA eligibility which should mean more responsibility and more time to develop his overall game.

Dwyer Tschantz, RW, Cornell University (ECAC)
Drafted 7th Round, 202nd overall, 2014

The only other forward at the NCAA level for the Blues, Tschantz had a productive freshman year but should benefit from more ice time next season. He has incredible size for his position and is a very physical player. He showed significant offensive skill during his time in the USHL but will need to bring that same level of skill as a sophomore next year. He would also benefit from improving his overall skating and filling out his 6’5 frame with more muscle, which should be realistic goals with three years left of NCAA eligibility.

Jake Walman, D, Providence College (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd Round, 82nd overall, 2014

Rounding out the defensive prospects at the NCAA level for the Blues, Walman had a very impressive freshman season and has immense potential as an offensive defenseman. In his first year of college hockey, Walman scored one goal and 14 assists in 39 games. More than his playmaking ability, Walman entered the draft as one of the best skaters available, which has helped him transition well to the NCAA. In terms of improvement, Walman will need to focus on his defensive game and add some muscle mass to become a more physical threat. Nevertheless, Walman’s skating and offensive instincts should help increase his responsibility next year.  
     
Max Gardiner, C, Pennsylvania State University (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd Round, 74th overall, 2010

After a dominant freshman year, Max Gardiner has slowly decreased his stock as an NHL hopeful with two very abysmal seasons. In 55 games played over the past two seasons, Gardiner has scored just five goals and three assists. Seven of those points were scored this season but his overall performance needs to improve drastically as a senior. He has yet to develop a sound defensive game and his offensive output is far from consistent. For Gardiner, these need to be major focal points if he hopes to garner a legitimate role at the professional level in the future.

Europe

Ville Husso, G, HIFK Helsinki (Liiga)
Drafted 4th Round, 94th overall, 2014

Making huge splashes at the World Junior Championships and in Europe, Husso is a good young goalie with immense potential. He has been playing professional hockey since he was 18 and has performed well during his time with HIFK. This season, Husso has a 16-11-10 record with a 2.36 goals against average and 0.915 save percentage. With the amount of talent at the goalie position in the pipeline, it makes the most sense for Husso to stay in Europe for the experience before making his way to North America. However, judging by his skill and desire, there is a good chance he makes the jump in the near future.

Santeri Saari, D, HPK Hameenlinna (Liiga)
Drafted 6th Round, 173rd Overall 2013

Santeri Saari has had a very busy 2014-15 campaign. In a very rare case, Saari has played in the KHL, Sweden and the Finnish Liiga over the course of one season. He started the year with Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL and played in nine games before moving on loan to BIK Karlskoga of the Swedish Allsvenskan. He played in 18 games and scored five assists before moving back to the Liiga. In 13 games with HPK Hameenlinna, Saari has scored two goals and one assist. At just 20 years old, Saari has quite a lot of experience to his name but he will need to improve his overall defensive skills if he hopes to make a successful transition to North America.

Prospect of the Month

Petteri LindbohmAs mentioned in the past two monthly articles, Lindbohm has been a great story for the Blues this season and continued to impress the front office during his time in the NHL. Since his call up in February, Lindbohm was a mainstay on the blueline in St. Louis but was sent back to the Wolves with Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk making their returns. Given the success he had at the NHL level, Lindbohm should finish the season on a very high note in the AHL with huge aspirations for training camp next year.