While the 2010 NHL Draft was hit or miss as a whole for the St. Louis Blues, their top two picks in Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have turned into franchise players who should have a major role to play moving forward. They are two of the best young players in the NHL and have proven to be two of the Blues best draft picks over the past ten years.
As for the rest of the draft class, the Blues are still waiting for several players to pan out, and there are few from this year that may never see NHL action. Whether they choose to play in Europe or stay at the AHL, the Blues have already benefited from the 2010 NHL Draft with Schwartz and Tarasenko performing at such a high level.
Round 1, 14th overall: Jaden Schwartz, LW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 207
There are certain intangible assets that make Jaden Schwartz a special player. While Tarasenko has been much more impressive on the offensive side, Schwartz has been a consistent two-way player and has continued to improve every season. After playing seven games in 2011-12 for the Blues, Schwartz played his first legitimate season of NHL hockey in 2012-13 after player 33 games in the AHL to start the year. His struggled defensively as a first-year player but has completely turned things around ever since.
In 2013-14, Schwartz scored 25 goals and 31 assists in 80 games, while also improving his rating of minus-4 in 2012-13 to plus-28. He was equally impressive during the NHL playoffs and continued his success this season. In 75 games, Schwartz scored 28 goals with 35 assists, good for third overall on the Blues. In terms of offense, it would not be surprising to see Schwartz surpass the 65-70 point mark next season.
Disregarding his offensive output, Schwartz is a good defensive forward and was a great leader for his past teams. Both at the college level and the World Junior Championship, Schwartz established himself as a very versatile and intelligent player. At just 22 years old, Schwartz is mature beyond his years and should continue to produce at the NHL level for years to come.
Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring the St. Louis Blues first round pick, Jaden Schwartz, and former President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson.
Round 1, 16th overall: Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
NHL Games: 179
By far the most offensively gifted forward on the Blues roster, Vladimir Tarasenko has enjoyed consecutive seasons of very strong performances. Playing his first six years of pro hockey in the KHL, Tarasenko was one of the most highly-anticipated draft picks of his class. Without making a trip to the AHL, Tarasenko jumped right into the NHL in 2012-13 and never looked back. As a rookie, Tarasenko played in 38 games and scored eight goals with 11 assists.
In his second season, Tarasenko started looking very comfortable as an NHL player. He was seeing top-six minutes and developed great chemistry with the Blues’ top forwards. He scored 21 goals and 22 assists in 64 games, while also scoring four goals in six playoff games. Keeping up with his level of improvement, Tarasenko continued his ascension as one of the league’s best in 2014-15, scoring a whopping 37 goals in 77 games. He finished the season with 73 points and seems poised to keep up the same level of production.
In six playoff games, Tarasenko scored six goals and one assist, topping his previous totals from last year. He has continued to mature as an offensive force and has a surprisingly impressive physical game to go with it. The only area of concern with Tarasenko is injuries. He has missed consistent time every year but improved on those numbers by missing just five games this season. As long as he remains reliable at both ends of the ice and stays healthy, Tarasenko will continue to grow as one of the NHL’s best players.
At just 24 years old, Sebastian Wannstrom has already had a lengthy professional career. Starting out in Sweden in 2009-10, Wannstrom made his way to North America in 2012-13 and made his debut with the Peoria Rivermen. He split time between the AHL and ECHL before returning to Europe in the same year. In 2013-14, Wannstrom made his return to North America and split time between the Wolves and Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. He finished the season with the Wolves and played in six playoff games, scoring one goal and two assists.
This season, Wannstrom has continued to play well at the AHL level and finished with 12 points in 36 games. He has a good two-way game but needs to improve offensively. He will be joining Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League in 2015-16 which should help him recover some of his offensive touch. It remains to be seen if Wannstrom will ever return to North America.
Round 3, 74th overall: Max Gardiner, C, Minnetonka High School (Minnesota HS)
NHL Games: 0
As discussed last month, Max Gardiner is one of the more disappointing prospects in the Blues’ system and has not shown much progression in three years of collegiate hockey. After a stellar freshman season scoring 22 points in 27 games, Gardiner has scored a combined eight points in 55 games over the past two years for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Prototypically a playmaking center, Gardiner does not have a sound defensive game which makes his offensive production more important. He is a relatively good skater but is extremely inconsistent in terms of production. With just one year left of NCAA hockey, Gardiner will have to improve in all areas of the game if he hopes to turn pro in the future.
In terms of development, Jani Hakanpaa has been on the right track for the past few seasons. Coming over from Europe in 2012-13, Hakanpaa left the SM-liiga for the AHL mid-season and has continued to improve ever since. His most impressive asset continues to be his size and physical presence. Similar to most players with size, Hakanpaa is an average skater and could use significant improvement in that department. He has shown improvement at the AHL level but is still not ready to deal with NHL competition.
In 132 career AHL games, Hakanpaa has a mere 20 points, which he should improve on in the coming future. Regardless of the lack of offense, Hakanpaa needs to continue to be a major presence in the defensive zone and should garner more responsibility next season. As long as he develops his skating and improves his offensive output, Hakanpaa should have a very bright future at the professional level.
Cody Beach has been at the professional level for three seasons but has yet to find a home at any level of hockey. Beach’s professional experience stems primarily from the AHL and ECHL and he has yet to get a chance at the NHL. He has been given several opportunities to excel at the AHL level but has continuously been dropped to the ECHL for conditioning. Due to his skill set, it seems highly unlikely that the grinding forward will find a place in the NHL. If he can improve his versatility as a hockey player while maintaining his physical presence, he should be able to secure a roster spot at the professional level.
In such an impressive draft year, Stephen MacAulay has been overshadowed by more talented players but has continued to gain experience at other levels of hockey. After a long junior career in the QMJHL, MacAulay joined the CIS ranks with Saint Mary’s University and just completed his sophomore season. He has played a few games as a pro in the AHL and ECHL but did not have much of an impact. MacAulay was never signed by the Blues and is not part of the team’s plans.
With very little hockey to choose from in May, Joel Edmundson may have been the most impressive prospect for the Blues during the AHL playoffs. As the Wolves tried to fend off elimination, Edmundson scored two goals in the last two games to help keep his team alive. In fact, his goal in game four was the overtime winner which pushed the series to five games. Edmundson finished the only two games in May with two goals, an even rating and seven shots on net. Making his return from injury, this is a great sign for Edmundson and the Blues.