Blues 2005 draft evaluation

By Maciej Chabelski

Without a doubt, T.J Oshie is the gem of the 2005 NHL draft for the St. Louis Blues. The 5’11, 24-year-old power forward is a key component of the young Blues forward corps, and a crowd favorite. The success of Oshie was a boon for a Blues scouting staff which had failed to find any impact players in the 2004 draft. 
However, despite the selection of Oshie, the 2005 draft is more miss than hit for the Blues. Of the seven picks made by St. Louis that year, only Oshie and Ben Bishop have played for the Blues so far in their careers, and only Oshie has made any kind of a lasting impact. There are still some outside hopes for forwards Nicholas Drazenovic and Ryan Reaves, but the rest of the prospects drafted in 2005 have either been released, or are playing outside of the North American professional circuit.

The average number of NHL games per pick is 20, with only three of the drafted players having played an NHL game.

T.J Oshie, LW/RW – 1st round, 24th overall – Warroad H.S, Minn.
5’11, 170lbs
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 133

Considered to be a major building block with the organization, the speedy winger played in 76 games in 2009-10, scoring 18 goals and 48 points, his second full season with St. Louis.  

Oshie was ranked 43rd overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting in 2005. He was coming off a stellar 2004-05 season, where he led Warroad High School to an undefeated season, and scored six points in 11 games in a late-season turn with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL
Oshie followed up that season with several point-per-game seasons with the University of North Dakota, and a strong 39-point performance as a rookie in the NHL in 2008-09.    

Oshie’s future with the Blues is bright. The retirement of Keith Tkachuk may give Oshie even more power-play time and the Blues expect his numbers to improve on last year’s career totals.  A player with incredible offensive instincts and a rambunctious style of play, the sky is the limit for the sparkplug.
His confidence and mental strength is also a positive. Despite being left off the 2010 U.S Olympic team, Oshie brushed it off and scored four goals in six games for the Americans at the 2010 IIHF World Championships.

Scott Jackson, D – 2nd round, 37th overall – Seattle, WHL
6’4, 200lbs
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 1

When the Blues drafted Jackson in 2005, they were hoping he would eventually anchor a stay-at-home defense pairing, possibly with Barret Jackman. Jackson was ranked 21st overall among North American skaters, and was coming off a strong 22-point season with Seattle.  

After failing to come to terms with the Blues in 2007, Jackson returned to Seattle without a pro-contract and played an overage year with the Thunderbirds.  He was signed in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and played limited minutes with the Norfolk Admirals.  

A big, hulking defenseman who loves to hit, the 23-year-old Jackson impressed with a strong second season with the Admirals in 2009-10. He was rewarded with a call-up to the Lightning to face the Florida Panthers in the final regular-season game of the 2009-10 season. Jackson racked up nearly 14 minutes of ice time in his debut, and may challenge for a bottom-pairing position with the Lightning next season.

Ben Bishop, G – 3rd round, 85th overall – University of Maine, NCAA
6’7, 205lbs
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 6

The tallest goalie to ever play in the NHL, Bishop started his career playing for Texas of the North American Hockey League, compiling a league-best 35 wins and earning an all-star berth as a result. As a result, he was ranked the sixth best goaltender in North America by Central Scouting in 2005.Three years of strong numbers followed at the University of Maine, and Bishop looked to be a steal for the Blues in the third round.

After looking solid in a six-game trial with the Blues in 2008-09 (2.94 GAA, .893 save percentage), Bishop took a step back and failed to make an appearance with St. Louis in 2009-10. On the bright side, he compiled decent numbers (2.77 GAA, .901 save percentage) on a terrible Peoria team.  The 23-year-old was named to the U.S team for the IIHF World Championships this season, and played in one period, stopping all five shots he faced.  

With Blues incumbent starting goaltender Chris Mason’s future still undecided, there is a legitimate opportunity for Bishop compete for a spot with the Blues, as early as next season. The Blues are hoping  Bishop doesn’t go the way of goaltender Marek Schwarz, a 2004 top draft pick who failed to live up to expectations.  

Ryan Reaves, RW – 5th round, 156th overall – Brandon, WHL
6’2, 193lbs
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

A textbook role player, Reaves has used a strong work ethic to develop into a decent professional player. Ranked 228th overall by Central Scouting in 2005, Reaves was drafted primarily for his toughness and size.  Reaves was coming off a strong playoff showing with Brandon, scoring six points and adding 43 penalty minutes in 23 games. 

Reaves had his best season to date in 2006-07, scoring 15 goals and 35 points in 69 games with Brandon. In his subsequent professional seasons, the Manitoba native developed a strong fighting game to compliment his already strong board play. In 2009-10, he led the Rivermen in penalty minutes with 167. 
His offensive game hasn’t developed as expected, however.

Not a particularly strong skater or stickhandler, the 23-year-old Reaves may carve out a niche as an above average fourth liner at the NHL level, particularly if he has a strong training camp with the Blues. 

Mike Gauthier, D – 6th round, 169th overall – Prince Albert, WHL
6’4, 185lbs
Status: Bust
NHL games played: 0

The Blues wanted a big, strong and aggressive defenseman when they drafted Gauthier, ranked the 86th-best skater in North America by Central Scouting. However, the B.C native spent much of his professional career plagued by inconsistency, poor decision-making and questionable skating.  

Despite a career year in 2006-07, when he scored 24 points and 264 penalty minutes with Prince Albert, Gauthier continued to drop down the depth chart in the organization in the following seasons.  The 23-year-old even saw time with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces in 2008-09. After he was released in 2009, he spent the season in the CIS, scoring seven points in 27 games with Wilfred Laurier.

Nicholas Drazenovic, C – 6th round, 171st overall – Prince George, WHL
6’1, 200lbs
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 0

A prospect with an abundance of offensive creativity, Drazenovic has yet to make an appearance with the Blues since turning pro in 2007-08. After several stellar seasons with Prince George, Central Scouting ranked Drazenovic 29th among North American skaters in 2005.  

He looked to be a steal for the Blues after a great rookie season with the Rivermen in 2007-08, scoring 42 points in only 69 games. However, he followed that up with a disappointing 33 points in 76 games the following season.    

Drazenovic missed parts of the 2009-10 season with an upper-body injury, yet still managed to set a career high with 19 goals on a goal-starved Peoria team.
Despite the increased production, time may be running out for the 23-year-old.  He faces a lot of competition at the center position, particularly with Andy McDonald, David Backes, and Patrik Berglund all above him on the depth chart.  A continued reluctance to play a physical game hinders the shifty pivot’s development. He may need a change of scenery to fulfill his potential. 

Nikolai Lemtyugov, RW – 7th round, 219th overall – Cherepovets, Rus
6’0, 176lbs
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

Lemtyugov looked to be a late-round steal for the Blues, particularly after putting up an impressive 22-goal rookie campaign with the Rivermen in 2007-08 season. He followed up that with 19 points in 27 games the following season.  He also impressed in the shootout, scoring eight goals in 11 tries in less than two AHL seasons. 

However, Lemtyugov was dazzled by the money available in Russia and left the Rivermen in December 2008, signing a multi-year deal with Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL.  He was traded to AK Bars Kazan in 2009, but failed to register a point in four games played.

At this point, it is unknown if Lemtyugov will return to the Blues, but if he does, the 23-year-old has the offensive potential and deceptive wrist shot to surprise in training camp.