Canadian junior prospects for St. Louis Blues big on size

By Timothy Freitag
Photo: Forward Cody Beach brings a blend of size, skill, and toughness to the Blues organization. To date he has dropped the gloves eight times this season, including bouts against Dylan McIlrath (NYR) and Jared Cowen (OTT). (Photo courtesy of the www.whl.ca)

While most of the Blues’ prospects have moved on to pro hockey or are competing outside of the junior hockey ranks this season, the organization still has a few young prospects playing in the CHL to keep an eye on. None are first round draft picks, but there is the potential for at least one diamond-in-the-rough out of this group.
 

WHL

Brett Ponich, D, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 2nd round (48th overall) in 2009
February 22nd, 1991. Ht: 6’6, Wt: 225 lbs.

The Blues’ second pick in 2009 has steadily improved as his junior career has progressed. Despite NHL’s Central Scouting ranking Ponich the 151st North American skater for the 2009 draft, the Blues took him with the 48th pick and it looks like they made a great choice.
 
In the last year, Ponich has been invited to try out for the Canadian World Juniors team, played in the Subway Super Series,  and was recently named captain for the Portland Winterhawks. His plus/minus rating, which was an abysmal minus-39 in his first year in the WHL is now a plus-20. While that turnaround is impressive, it doesn’t hurt to play with Nino Niederreiter (NYI) and Ryan Johansen (CLB).
 
With incredible size and improved footwork, Ponich has turned himself into a solid NHL prospect. The sky is the limit for a player with his size and work ethic.
 

Cody Beach, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors
Acquired: 5th round (134th overall) in 2010
August 8th, 1992. Ht: 6’6, Wt: 188 lbs.
 
After a dismal 4-15-1-0 record to begin this season, Calgary Hitmen GM Kelly Krisio sent Cody Beach to the Moose Jaw Warriors. Despite his team leading 15 points at the time of the trade, Beach’s inconsistency and inflated penalty minutes made him expendable. Since being traded to the Warriors, Beach has one goal, five assists, and 21 penalty minutes in five games, giving him a total of six goals, 21 points, and 94 penalty minutes through the first 22 games of the season. Only 18 years old, Beach can learn from this bump in the road and build on the talents that made him a Blues’ draft pick in the 2010 draft.
 
At 6’6 and almost 200 pounds, Cody Beach has the potential to be a power forward in the NHL. He plays the game with grit and as evidenced by his eight fights, has a proclivity for dropping the mitts. He needs to improve his skating and consistency in order to reach his potential.
 
 
OHL

David Shields, D, Erie Otters
Acquired: 6th round (168th overall) in 2009
January 27th, 1991. Ht: 6’3, Wt: 215 lbs.
 
A late round pick for the Blues’ from the 2009 draft, David Shields is a stay-at-home blueliner who has slowly improved his point production every year he has played in the OHL. Despite his solid play at the major junior level it is hard to see Shields finding his way to the NHL. The Blues are very deep on the blue line and his skill level does not compare favorably with the other their defensive prospects.
 
If the Blues see a need in Peoria, they will sign David Shields to begin his pro career there next year.
 

QMJHL

Stephen MacAulay, C, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 6th round (164th overall) in 2010
April 20th, 1992. Ht: 6’2, Wt: 185 lbs.
 
The Blues’ 6th round pick in the 2010 draft was used to select Stephen MacAuley of the Saint John Sea Dogs. MacAuley hails from Cole Harbour, NS, which is the hometown of Sidney Crosby. It is unlikely that MacAuley will reach those same heights, but Blues fans and front office personnel are hopeful he can continue to improve his solid two-way game. 
 
With eight goals and four assists through 21 games this season, MacAuley will not age out of junior for another two years. He must continue to improve to maximize his chance of making it to the next level.