While the top three prospects have shifted positions over the past few seasons, the St. Louis Blues have added tremendous depth to their pipeline over the past two years. Despite a somewhat quiet outing at the 2015 Draft the team is poised to reap the benefits of its pipeline soon. 2014 first-round pick Robby Fabbri is showing signs of being an NHL-ready player while 2014 second-rounder Ivan Barbashev also looks like a future Blue. Apart from those two, the amount of goaltending talent in the system is simply phenomenal – with a good talent like Luke Opilka not even making the cut – and that could one day stabilize a position that has been a weak point in otherwise excellent teams.
The Blues have found a way of developing their youngsters while also staying competitive in the NHL. If they need to make any trades prior to the postseason, the Blues have plenty of young talent to offer other teams. With that said, the top 20 heading into this season could change drastically when the next edition rolls around in 2016.
20. (20) Samuel Blais, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 176th overall, 2014
After being an unheralded prospect prior to the 2014 draft, Blais is making a name for himself. Both in the QMJHL last season and in the 2015 Traverse City prospect tournament, Samuel Blais is starting to turn some heads. Despite playing just 25 games in the Q in his draft season, the Blues took a chance on drafting the small-sized forward that could yet pay dividends. Blais has emerged as one of the top scorers in the QMJHL and should have another fairly strong season with the Victoriaville Tigres. For Blais, size will be the biggest issue as he transitions to the pros, but he has plenty of time to improve his game for the next level.
19. (NR) Austin Poganski, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall, 2014
As a freshman at the University of North Dakota, Poganski maintained some of the offensive production which he displayed in the USHL but also showed a good defensive presence at the college level. If he can improve his offensive numbers and become a much better skater, Poganski could very well appear on this list again in the spring.
18. (16) Joel Edmundson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 46th overall, 2011
After suffering an injury and missing time last season, Joel Edmundson is healthy for 2015-16 and should be a major part of the Chicago Wolves this season. He is a much better skater than Jani Hakanpaa but has similar good size. His offensive skills need to improve but he has all the opportunity in the world this season with the Wolves. As long as he shows a strong defensive game while improving his offensive presence, Edmundson should be a nice surprise this year for the Wolves.
17. (18) Mackenzie MacEachern, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2012
MacEachern has been off to a slow start as the Michigan State Spartans have been undergoing something of a transitional period. With just 26 points in his sophomore season, his trajectory is not immediately impressive. MacEachearn though has been learning to lead on a team that has been a little thin on talent. This junior season will see the Michigan native approaching something like his ideal playing weight as he takes over the offensive reins from the departed Matt Berry. After leading the teams in shots last season, look for MacEachern to come out and have a solid junior campaign.
16. (NR) Yannick Veilleux, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2011
Veilleux seems to fit the mold of a Ken Hitchcock player. He has some skills, and though he has not yet translated his junior offensive prowess to the AHL, it was not totally non-existent either. A second season with Chicago should give a much better indication as to whether he will be a grinder only, or a player capable of physical intensity as well as some timely offense. Given the right opportunity, it could certainly be the latter.
15. (14) Jaedon Descheneau, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2014
After being passed over once in the draft, Descheneau responded with a 98 point effort in 2013-14 that caught the attention of the Blues scouts. Once again he was an offensive leader for the Kootenay Ice, finishing one point behind Luke Philp for the team scoring lead. He has not yet hit the kind of growth spurt that suggests he will thrive at the pro level however. At this point, he could well return for his overage season, but might need to be traded. Despite not having an obvious role at this stage of his career, Descheneau possesses some excellent skills and remains a prospect of interest, particularly in the Blues’ relatively thin forward ranks.
14. (NR) Santeri Saari, D, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 173rd overall, 2013
Playing in three different leagues last season, Santeri Saari will finally have some stability in the Liiga so he can show the skills he possesses. At just 20 years old, Saari has been somewhat of a journeyman and has not been given the right time to develop his game. Staying home and playing for HPK Hameenlinna will give him ample opportunity to find consistency and improve his defensive play. If he does not show significant improvement during the 2015-16 campaign, it will be interesting to see where he stands in comparison to his fellow Blues’ prospects in the spring. Saari has not yet earned an entry-level deal but has a few tools that suggest he should.
The Blues traded a conditional seventh round pick for Konrad Abeltshauser in June and hope to add the combo of size and skill to their blueline prospects. Playing for the Worcester Sharks for the past two seasons, Abeltshauser showed consistent playmaking skills and is a fairly good skater given his size. Measuring 6’5” and weighing 225 pounds, Abeltshauser plays more like an undersized player and does not use his size to his full advantage. He enjoys jumping into rushes and making the right passes, but needs to focus more on being physical and becoming a more reliable defensive player. He will likely join the AHL ranks with the Wolves in 2015-16.
12. (10) Petteri Lindbohm, D, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 176th overall, 2012
One of the faster rising names in the Blues’ pipeline based on last season’s performance, Petteri Lindbohm had an incredibly strong AHL season which got him a chance to play for the Blues. Playing in 23 NHL games, Lindbohm managed two goals and an assist while staying quite reliable in the defensive zone. Heading into this season, there is a good chance Lindbohm starts in the NHL, and based on last year, he could keep the roster spot for the near future.
11. (12) Jake Walman, D, 6.5C
Drafted: 3rd round, 82nd overall, 2014
Jake Walman went into his draft class as one of the better skaters available and hoping to carry that success to the NCAA ranks. As a freshman, Walman scored a goal and 15 assists in 41 games, showing off his offensive vision and skating skills as a key player for the national champions at Providence College. As a sophomore, Walman should see quite a bit of power play time which will only increase his offensive production. To become a more complete player, Walman needs to increase his physical play and strength while maintaining a strong defensive presence in the process.