After replenishing their prospect pool with ten selections in the 2014 NHL Draft, the St. Louis Blues used the 2015 NHL Draft to beef up their prospect depth at key positions. The Blues only have three goaltenders and three centers in the pipeline, and they used three of their six picks on those positions. Even with goaltenders Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso looking like legitimate prospects, at least, and Ivan Barbashev and Robby Fabbri being two centers who might be ready to make an impact soon, the Blues had plenty of room and reason to add some much needed depth to complement their best prospects.
Interestingly, with an already respectable group of prospects on defense, the Blues selected Vince Dunn with the 56th overall pick. After selecting center Adam Musil 94th overall in the fourth round, the Blues followed that up with another center at 116th overall in Glenn Gawdin. In the fifth round, the Blues selected another defenseman, Niko Mikkola, with the 146th overall pick, and also goaltender Luke Opilka. To complete the draft, the Blues selected winger Liam Dunda 176th overall in the sixth round.
Based on their current group of prospects, the Blues could have used more of their picks on the left wing. While shifting a player to a wing is always a possibility, there is a lack of high-end options and the top names are still a year or two away from helping. While Dunda is another depth addition to the left wing prospect pool, the Blues will likely focus on this position in the coming years, one way or another.
Vince Dunn, D, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
2nd round, 56th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 187 lbs
Looking to continue their success in the draft with young defensemen, the Blues used their first pick on Vince Dunn, an offensive defenseman who broke out this season with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.
When asked about being selected by the Blues with their first pick, Dunn replied “It’s such an honor, being their first pick they obviously believe in me and that’s a huge part of being picked. It’s a huge accomplishment on my part and I’m just thankful for being picked.”
After a successful rookie campaign with five goals and 28 assists in 63 games, Dunn took his game to the next level as a sophomore in the OHL. Last season, Dunn finished with 18 goals and 38 assists in 68 games, a feat very impressive for a second year defenseman. Even more impressively, Dunn took his minus-8 rating from a year ago and turned it into a plus-8 this season.
If it was not his regular season performance that helped him gain some attention, it was his showing during the OHL playoffs that sealed the deal. After playing seven games and scoring one assist in 2013-14, Dunn finished the 2014-15 postseason with six goals and four assists in just eight playoff games. He has become a consistent contributor for the IceDogs and should see significantly more playing time next season.
Dunn is going into his third year with the IceDogs and has a good chance at joining Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championships. He has all the skills that would make him a fantastic player on international ice and allow him to thrive in a situation with the best young players in the world. His skills would make him a great puck possession defenseman while also setting up his equally talented teammates with scoring chances.
Dunn is a fairly good sized defenseman for his style and can skate very well. He has an impressive shot to complement his vision and passing ability, which are his best two assets overall. He makes passes with relative ease and can make high percentage plays. As long as he continues to improve his overall offensive ability while ensuring a sound two-way game, Dunn could be another steal in the draft for the Blues.
Adam Musil, C, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
4th round, 94th overall
Height: 6-3 Weight: 202 lbs
The nephew of Bobby Holik (and son of Frank Musil), Adam Musil is a good-sized forward who has shown solid versatility throughout his career. With strong family ties, Musil has been around the game for his whole life and projects to be a gritty forward like his uncle. When asked about his family, Musil said “they’re my family, they’re my everything. I wouldn’t be here without them. I am really happy I have them in my life. With my father and brother’s experience you can use it to your advantage and that’s what I tried to do…My uncle Bobby Holik was a great forward and I tried to follow in his footsteps. I tried to model my game after him, he is one of my idols and I really look up to him.”
He started his career with the Red Deer Rebels in 2012-13 but played in just three regular season games and three playoff games. Musil improved his point totals quite a bit in his second full season of junior hockey. After scoring 11 goals and 18 assists last year, Musil scored 15 goals and 24 assists in six more games. The biggest concern with his play is consistency. He has shown some offensive ability but has sacrificed a reliable defensive game in the process. To become a more complete and professional-level player, Musil will need to focus heavily on his abilities at both ends of the ice.
Going into his third full season of junior hockey, Musil will need to improve his skating given his size and style of play. As a two-way prospect, Musil still has a lot to learn and will only be able to gain the necessary experience by playing more minutes. He is projected to be a third line player but his defensive acumen needs to grow along with his maturity and reliability. He is already a physical presence and could become a more versatile player with a stronger offensive performance next season.
Musil spoke with Hockey’s Future following his selection on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, with his comments being included in this HF video.
Glenn Gawdin, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
4th round, 116th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 191 lbs
Another young player (he is one day older than Adam Musil) who has two full seasons of junior under his belt, Glenn Gawdin has been an impressive offensive player given his situation and also has a strong defensive presence. In terms of experience, Gawdin has seen playoff action in the last two years and did quite well in his second season. Playing in four games, Gawdin scored a goal and an assist.
With regard to his regular season performance, Gawdin improved his offensive numbers across the board. He was able to score five more goals and 27 more assists in just six more games as a second year player. The verdict is still out on whether he will become a goal scorer or a solid playmaker but, based on his numbers last season, his ability to make the right passes is becoming his best asset.
Gawdin also played a depth role with Team Canada at the World Juniors U-18 tournament. While not flashy, this player has been a solid hockey player in the early part of his career and provides additional depth for a system short on center prospects.
Niko Mikkola, D, KalPa Kuopio (Liiga)
5th round, 127th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 185 lbs
There is something about Niko Mikkola that caught the Blues’ scouting team’s eyes. He was passed on during last year’s draft but was taken by the Blues this year, despite being ranked 111th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting for 2015. He may have some untapped upside despite this. For one thing, his growth spurt from last season was nothing short of freaky. Mikkola went from 5-11 to 6-4 and has above average skating skills for his size.
In terms of abilities, Mikkola is still quite raw but has shown good offensive instincts and improved passing. He is not a flashy player and knows his limits when it comes to making plays. He is naturally a physical player but could use a boost in that area simply based on his overbearing size. Mikkola is signed to his Liiga team through 2016-17, which should give him plenty of time to find more consistency to his pro game.
Luke Opilka, G, United States National Development Team (USHL)
5th round, 146th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 192 lbs
Potentially the best value for the Blues in the draft, Luke Opilka is a quickly rising goaltending prospect and has been a part of the U.S. National Development team for the past few seasons. Playing for both the U17 and U18 teams, Opilka has found his game as a goaltender after transitioning from a skater position later in his young career.
When asked about becoming a Blues selection, Opilka replied “Yeah, I mean that’s who I thought it would be. Actually before they called my name my buddy turned to me and said I think this is it and sure enough they picked me.” As a hometown boy and St. Louis Blues fan, Opilka is quite excited to join the Blues organization and it seems the team had every inclination of drafting him this year.
While there are very few statistics to go on for his overall production, his USNTDP numbers are enough to suggest that he has the potential to improve drastically as a junior player. While he is not overly tall, Opilka has the athleticism and mental strength to be a consistent goaltender. At just 18 years old, Opilka will be joining the Kitchener Rangers next season and should fight for starts as the new rookie in town.
Liam Dunda, LW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
6th round, 176th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 215 lbs
While he is not the answer to the left wing issues in the Blues’ prospect pool, Liam Dunda is a massive 17-year old kid who has an impeccable physical presence. The 194th ranked player by International Scouting Services, Dunda is a solid hitter who imposes his will every night. He was the youngest eligible player in this year’s draft and the Blues’ scouting team was hoping to take him with their last pick.
Dunda played in the OHL the past two seasons, tallying a modest nine points in 53 total games with Plymouth and Owen Sound in 2015-16. While the potential upside could be overstated, Dunda is still very raw and should focus on becoming a more reliable player in 2015-16, learning to use his pro-style frame even more effectively in all zones.