Plenty of talent showcased in St. Louis Blues Top 20 Prospects

By Suraj Sukumar

Ty Rattie - St. Louis Blues

Photo: Ty Rattie could show himself to be more than a role player in the 2015-16 season given the right opportunity (courtesy of Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

10. (NR) Pheonix Copley, G, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Washington Capitals, July 2015

After an unspectacular collegiate career with Michigan Tech, few expected Copley to have such a solid rookie season for the Hershey Bears. He had a solid .926 save percentage in 26 games before coming over from the Washington Capitals in the T.J. Oshie trade. He is ready for action immediately and should see some starts early on in the season. Whether it will be Copley, Binnington, or a tandem, the Wolves have plenty of talent in net heading into 2015-16. Pheonix Copley is destined to get some starts in the AHL this season and should provide some healthy competition for Binnington, to say the least.

9. (8) Ville Husso, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 82nd overall, 2014

Based on how this season progresses, Ville Husso is almost guaranteed a higher spot in the Blues’ prospect rankings come spring time. He is unproven in North America, but he has the talent to be a number one goaltender. A third-year starter for HIFK of the Finnish Liiga at only 20 years of age, Husso is basically guaranteed to have another strong season in Europe even though his save percentage dipped slightly last season. When ready to make the jump, it will be interesting to see how he slips in to the North American game. Whether it is with the Blues or the Wolves, he will have to respond to a healthy level of competition among St. Louis’s impressive group of netminding prospects.

8. (7) Tommy Vannelli, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2013

Plenty of eyes will be on Tommy Vannelli in 2015-16. He was the Blues’ first pick in the 2013 draft and has been a major part of the Medicine Hat Tigers’ blueline in the WHL. While he missed some time last season due to injury, his points-per-game rate increased to almost to 0.8 and he showed tremendous improvement in his own zone. Still slim at 165 pounds, the Minnetonka product is not expected to play an overage season, and might struggle with the physical aspect in the AHL. He does possess good offensive upside, but the upcoming season might be one of transition.

7. (NR) Vince Dunn, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2015

The first pick of the Blues in 2015, Vince Dunn was an offensive beast for the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL and could very well flirt with a point-per-game pace in 2015-16. He will enter his third year of junior hockey with plenty of opportunity in front of him. At just 18 years old, Dunn fills his frame of 6’0” very well at 187 pounds and has plenty of room to grow in the coming years.  He is an incredible skater with amazing vision. He plays with plenty of confidence, has solid offensive instincts, and plays with high energy in the defensive zone.

Dunn has shown plenty of promise over the past few seasons and this year should be no different. Just two days after being returned to Niagara for the start of the OHL season, Dunn signed his entry-level contract, signalling a bright future for the talented young man.

6. (6) Jordan Schmaltz, D, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2012

Jordan Schmaltz is a great skater and and has excellent vision. He developed consistently over three years at the University of North Dakota – although flatlined slightly over the last two – but the time has come for him to prove himself at the next level. He has improved his defensive game – which was the most important thing – and will head into training camp a much better two-way player. If he does not make the NHL roster, Schmaltz will provide a huge offensive boost to the Wolves’ blueline. He gives up some physical strength to some of the other contenders at training camp, and might be best served with some AHL seasoning.

5. (9) Colton Parayko, D, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2012

It may not take a full season for Colton Parayko to become the best defenseman in the Blues’ prospect pool. In terms of development, he has made leaps in both his production and size, and looks to be the player to watch heading into training camp. He is much stronger and fills out his 6’5” frame a lot more since last season, but needs to improve his skating to become a more complete and NHL-ready player.
Parayko served as the captain of the Blues’ prospect team for the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. Depending on the results of the tournament and his production in training camp, Parayko will either be a rookie to watch in the NHL, or a potentially dangerous player in the AHL.

4. (5) Ty Rattie, RW, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2011

Ty Rattie represents a very diverse group of wingers on the right side and should still be considered the best of the bunch. He has progressed well in two seasons with the Chicago Wolves and is finding his offensive footing as a pro. While his goal scoring ratio was much higher in 2013-14 (31 in 72 games), Rattie has shown flashes of becoming a more complete offensive player, increasing his playmaking ability and point totals.

With so many talented players ranking below him, this should be a make-or-break season for the 22-year old right winger. Maintaining a top five position in the Blues’ top 20 rankings will be tough and Rattie has needed to show more consistency as a professional player. Last season was solid for Rattie, scoring 21 goals and 21 assists in 59 games. Given his size, speed and skill will be the primary factors in taking his game to the next level. If he can flirt with a point-per-game pace this season, Rattie will likely keep a spot in the top ten prospects in the Blues’ system and could finally graduate from prospect status.

3. (1) Jordan Binnington, G, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 88th overall, 2011

Despite a solid season in 2014-15, Jordan Binnington is simply overshadowed by the immense talent in the Blues’ system. While he still remains the top goaltender, he also has competition at his own position with the rising Ville Husso and the newly acquired Pheonix Copley.

Binnington was the Chicago Wolves’ number one goaltender last season but will have plenty competition going into this year, primarily from Copley. If the Wolves choose to go with a tandem in net, the Blues will have the perfect opportunity to see which goaltender is progressing at a faster and more consistent rate. Nevertheless, Binnington has ample experience under his belt and his productive season and good showing in the playoffs with the Wolves last year makes it his position to lose in 2015-16.

2. (1) Ivan Barbashev, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 33rd overall, 2014

In a similar situation as Binnington, Ivan Barbashev is seeing a decrease in rankings simply due to the talent around him. While he has a tremendous two-way game for his age, and flirted with a goal-per-game pace last year with 45 in 57 games, Barbashev is not as dynamic a prospect as Fabbri. While their ability to play both ends is similar, Fabbri’s leadership, experience and overall NHL-readiness separate him from the rest. There are certain intangible characteristics that need to be developed and, with those skills, Barbashev would be a more dangerous player.

Heading into this season, Barbashev and Fabbri will battle for an NHL spot in training camp. With offseason injuries to Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera, Barbashev has a chance to make the team at the start of the season. Even if he fails to do so, Barbashev spending next season developing in the AHL is likely the best move for the 19-year old Russian.

1. (3) Robby Fabbri, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st Round, 21st overall, 2014

Fabbri comes in as the top Blues prospect for 2015-16. His 2014-15 campaign was something special despite the frustration of an ankle injury. He had a major impact in Canada’s early success in the World Junior Championships, continued his solid career with the Guelph Storm with a 100-point pace, and showed significant dependability in the AHL, scoring a goal and three assists in three games.

It remains to be seen where Fabbri will start the 2015-16 campaign, but there is a chance he starts in the NHL with the Blues this season as that team copes with some off-season injuries. Fabbri has a good two-way game and is a natural leader and a tireless worker. As long as he stays healthy, this should be one of the most eventful seasons for the up-and-coming Fabbri.

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