Several St. Louis Blues CHL prospects enjoyed long 2012 post-season

By Brad Gardner

Photo: Goaltender Jordan Binnington had a rough post-season posting an 0-2 record and a 5.00 goals against average. (CHL Images)

 

Plenty of St. Louis prospects made noise during their team's respective postseason runs with several bringing home league championships. Two prospects were integral to Saint John's run toward their second consecutive QMJHL Championship while a third Quebec League prospect came out on top at the Memorial Cup. The Blues were also represented on the Swedish Elite League champion Brynas team. Several other prospects ranked among their league's top scorers during the playoffs despite falling short of the championship.

NHL

The St. Louis Blues qualified for the playoffs for just the second time since the lockout, reaching the second round for the first time in 10 seasons. Although they did not play major roles, the Blues had several prospects make appearances down the stretch and in the playoffs. Ian Cole was the most prominent prospect down the stretch but skated in only two playoff games in favor of veterans, averaging around 10:25 of ice time per game. 

Two other prospects who figure to have NHL futures got a taste of the postseason but did not see much ice time. Jake Allen served as back-up goaltender after Jaroslav Halak suffered an injury during the Blues' first round series against San Jose, playing just over a minute in relief of Brian Elliott during the second round. Jaden Schwartz remained with the team as well after joining the lineup late in the regular season but he did not skate in any of the team's playoff games.

QMJHL

The longest playoff runs from the Blues pipeline took place in the QMJHL. The Quebec League playoffs featured three Blues prospects in Ryan Tesink, Stephen MacAulay, and Yannick Veilleux. Tesink and MacAulay provided scoring depth and work ethic on the Saint John Sea Dogs third line, each scoring 13 points with a plus-five rating in 17 playoff games. Tesink, who scored seven goals and six assists in the QMJHL playoffs, made an even bigger impact at the Memorial Cup for Saint John. He scored three goals, one in each of the team's preliminary round games, to tie for second on the team and was a factor in the physical game, particularly in the games against rival Shawinigan. MacAulay, an alternate captain for Saint John, did not crack the score sheet during the team's four Memorial Cup games and struggled to a 40 percent success rate at the faceoff dot. Both Tesink and MacAulay earned a minus-three rating in Saint John's 7-4 semifinal loss to Shawinigan.

Veilleux meanwhile suited up for the eventual Memorial Cup winning Shawinigan Cataractes. Shawinigan had their spot in the Memorial Cup guaranteed as the host team, but the well-stocked squad was still expected to make noise in the QMJHL playoffs. Veilleux was a force in the first round with five goals and seven points in the Cataractes' four-game sweep of Rouyn-Noranda but he was held without a goal in their second round loss to Chicoutimi. The winger finished tied for second on the team with five goals and tied for third with 11 points in 11 QMJHL playoff games. Veilleux remained snakebitten through the team's three preliminary round games at the Memorial Cup as well. After a 10-game goalless drought, he finally broke through with the first goal in Shawinigan's tiebreaker game against Edmonton and then added the game-winner in the third period of the high-scoring semifinal win over the defending champion Sea Dogs. Veilleux finished with two timely goals and was credited with 16 hits in the six games en route to Shawinigan's surprising Memorial Cup victory.

WHL

Portland Winterhawks sniper Ty Rattie picked up right where he left off in the regular season. The 19-year-old winger led the WHL with 19 goals during the postseason and finished second in the league with 33 points in 21 playoff games. That performance capped off a breakout season for Rattie that resulted in 76 goals in 90 games over the course of the regular season and playoffs. Despite Memorial Cup expectations again this season, the Winterhawks hit a wall in the WHL Championship series against Edmonton and lost in the WHL finals for the second consecutive year. Rattie missed game two of the series after crashing head-first into the boards during game one, managing just two goals and two assists in six games against the Oil Kings.

The Blues also had a pair of Moose Jaw Warriors in Cody Beach and Joel Edmundson who contributed to the team's 8-1 record through the first two rounds before running into the eventual champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference Finals. Beach played a major role during the team's first round win over Regina, registering three goals and four points during the five-game series. The 19-year-old winger came up with his best performance of the postseason in game two against Regina, earning first star honors for a pair of goals and an assist in Moose Jaw's first victory of the series. He also earned a suspension in that game for comments directed towards the Regina bench and he was forced to sit out game three. Beach finished the playoffs tied for fourth on the team with 10 points in 13 playoff games. Edmundson managed five points, tied for second among the team's defensemen, including three of the four goals scored by Moose Jaw blueliners. He earned first star honors himself in the team's first game of the second round against Medicine Hat with a pair of goals in the team's dominating win.

OHL

In the OHL, St. Louis prospects Brock Beukeboom and Jordan Binnington saw postseason action. Beukeboom finished with two goals and five points in 19 playoff games with a minus-one rating and eight penalty minutes. The Niagara blueliner was a minus-four in his four appearances during the OHL Finals, which Niagara lost to London in five games. Binnington started only two games in Owen Sound's first round loss against Kitchener. He gave up six goals on 42 shots in game one and was sat in favor of overager Scott Stajcer (NYR) in game two. Binnington got the nod again in game three, but was again unable to seal a victory. He finished with an 0-2-0 record in the playoffs with a 5.00 goals against average and .863 save percentage.

U.S. Junior/NCAA

Two St. Louis prospects saw post-season action at the USHL and NCAA level, but neither made a huge impact. Max Gardiner, who after leaving the University of Minnesota over the summer is now committed to Penn State's new hockey program, managed a goal and four points in five USHL playoff games for Dubuque. Max Tardy, a sophomore center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was held off the score sheet in limited action during the Bulldogs' five games in the WCHA playoffs and NCAA tournament.

Europe

The organization's top prospect, Vladimir Tarasenko, proved himself to be one of the KHL's most dynamic talents in the playoffs. He got off to a slow start in his first 15 regular season games with SKA St. Petersburg, scoring five goals and nine points in 15 games after playing near a point-per-game pace earlier in the year. He got back to that level of production in the playoffs, ranking third in the league with 10 goals and fourth with 16 points despite his club getting knocked out in the West Conference Finals by the eventual KHL champs, Dynamo Moscow. His point total led SKA by a wide margin, second place was former NHL-defenseman Dmitri Kalinin with 10 points, and provided even more evidence of Tarasenko's ability to step up on the biggest stages.

Also in action overseas was Swedish forward Sebastian Wannstrom, who played out a similar narrative. The winger often skated in a limited checking line role for Brynas during the 2011-12 season, but injuries gave him an opportunity to skate with the scoring lines later in the year. He responded with the best Elite League totals of his two-plus year career with 15 points in 43 games in Sweden's top league. After averaging 0.16 points per game in over 100 career regular season matches, Wannstrom managed two goals and five assists in 17 playoff games, placing seventh among the team's forwards with seven playoff points despite again seeing limited ice time on many nights. Brynas beat Skelleftea in six games to win the SEL Championship.

A pair of 2011 Swedish picks, Teemu Eronen and Niklas Lundstrom, also saw playoff action in Europe. The offensive defenseman Eronen managed a goal and four points in 10 playoff games with Jokerit in his third season with the SM-liiga club. Lundstrom suited up in goal for the AIK J20 squad, appearing in three playoff games at Sweden's junior level. He managed a 2.57 goals against average and solid .915 save percentage in that time but was unable to help his team get past the first round best-of-three series.

Prospect Signings

The Blues announced four prospect signings to begin the offseason, none more important than the June 2nd agreement in principle on an entry-level contract with Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The team's top prospect is expected to skate in St. Louis for the 2012-13 season with the chance to play his way into a significant role within the Blues offense. The dynamic forward's arrival in North America will also heavily affect the Calder Trophy landscape heading into next season.

On June 1st forward Ty Rattie agreed to an entry-level contract with the Blues. The 19-year-old winger was the team's top selection, 32nd overall, in the 2011 draft. A year too young to play in the AHL next season, the slight goal-scorer will be a longshot to make the Blues out of camp and is more likely to return for one more season in the WHL with Portland.

The Blues announced the signing of 2010 draft pick Jani Hakanpaa on May 21st. The 20-year-old defenseman provides a physical presence and shutdown abilities along with some offensive potential. He skated the 2011-12 season in Finland's top pro league with the SM-liiga's Blues squad where he scored five goals and seven assists in 41 games.

St. Louis also announced on May 29th the signing of goaltender Jordan Binnington, drafted in the third round in 2011. The 18-year-old goaltender still has one more season of junior hockey ahead of him before transitioning to the pro level.

The signing deadline for 2010 draft picks from junior hockey passed on June 1st. By not signing either player to an NHL contract, the Blues relinquished the rights to their own sixth round pick, Saint John center Stephen MacAulay, and the main return from Tampa Bay in the Erik Brewer trade, Brock Beukeboom.