The St. Louis Blues entered the 2012 NHL Draft with a loaded prospect pool, consisting of players such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Ty Rattie, who rely more on their speed, skill, and hockey IQ, than size and grit. The main focus for the Blues in 2012 was adding size, grit, and offensive depth to the cupboards.
Director of amateur scouting, Bill Armstrong has helped the Blues build their prospect pool and after stockpiling high end skill, he was able to take more abundant risks in with their 2012 draft picks, selecting more boom-or-bust prospects, all with high end potential.
The selection of Schmaltz was a surprise to many in the hockey world, as most scouting services had Schmaltz ranked in the middle of the second round. However, the Blues and their amateur scouting team had Schmaltz ranked much higher.
The 18-year-old is a two-way defenseman who plays the game hard and fast. His possesses a good hockey IQ, which allows him to put high offensive numbers on the board while remaining defensively sound in his own end of the ice. While Schmaltz is not a devastating hitter, he has the size and strength to control the physical aspects of the game as well. He's tough around the crease, battles hard in the corners, and makes it difficult for opposing forwards to play in the offensive zone.
Schmaltz will be attending the University of North Dakota next season, which will please many Blues fans as they have seen the quality of prospects produced over the years, including current Blues forward, T.J. Oshie. Schmaltz is at least two-to-three years away from being a significant player at the professional level and will develop in the minors before seeing NHL ice.
Sam Kurker, RW – St. John's Prep (USHS)
2nd round, 56th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 201lbs
Sam Kurker is the first of two high school players selected by the Blues in 2012. The Reading, Massachusetts native has played the last four years in St. John's Preparatory school, amassing 135 points.
Headed to Boston University for 2012-13, Kurker has the potential to be a traditional power forward. He's a strong skater, a relentless fore checker, and an overall gritty player. He has a strong shot, though he needs to improve the accuracy of his shot. He also needs to work on his defensive coverage.
With his willingness to drive hard to the net, battle in the corners, and use his hockey sense to get to open areas of the ice, Kurker has the potential to put it all together and be a solid top nine contributor.
MacKenzie MacEachern, LW – Brother Rice High (USHS)
3rd round, 67th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 180 lbs
MacEachern is a hard-hitting power forward with superb puck-moving abilities. His size is a big asset in the offensive zone, as he wins the majority of his battles in the corners and in front of the net. In the defensive zone, MacEachern's hockey sense is his biggest asset. His ability to get sticks in lanes, cut off passes, and block shots makes him a strong two-way forward.
MacEachern, who is committed to Michigan State University, will spend a year in the USHL before moving up the NCAA rank. His rights are currently held by the Chicago Steel, who selected him 4th overall in the USHL draft this year.
Expect to see MacEachern to spend one year in the USHL and three-to-four years in college to help him develop before he decides to turn pro.
Colton Parayko, D – Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL)
3rd round, 86th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 181 lbs
Parayko, like all of the Blues draft selections this year, possesses great size. He uses it well playing a solid two way game. His reach, physical presence, and willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice allow him to be a solid contributor in the defensive zone.
He also possesses good stick skills and ability to move the puck quickly in transition. He does not own an overly heavy shot, yet it is quick and accurate. He quarterbacked the powerplay for the Oil Barons this year, posting 42 points in 53 games this season.
Headed for the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) next season, Parayko's upside is that of a top four defenseman who can contribute on both special teams.
The selection of Nick Walters gives the St. Louis Blues another big, strong defenseman who loves to stay constantly involved in games. Whether he is throwing his weight around, or he is throwing his fists around, Walters is a very strong defensive player.
The 18-year-old's offensive upside is minimal. He posted six goals and 12 assists this year with Everett. He owns a very heavy shot, which is his best asset offensively.
Now no one will ever confuse Walters to be an offensive defenseman as he is strictly a shut down man. He is better suited to be a three-to-six defenseman who can block shots and specialize in killing penalties.
The timeline for Walters is difficult to pinpoint. His skill set is one that the Blues have plenty of in their system. With players like Ian Cole, Brett Ponich, and Joel Edmundson in their prospect pool, it will give Walters plenty of time to develop in juniors and the minors. Don't expect to see Walters busting through the Blues system to battle for a roster spot for at least another three-to-five years.
Goaltender Francois Tremblay managed less than stellar numbers in his first season starting for Val d'Or. His goals against average was 3.79 and his save percentage was .882. Not all of it his fault though, as Val d'Or had a middling offense and defense.
Val-d'Or is going to be stronger team this year and Tremblay is going to be key contributor if the Foreurs want to get back in the post-season and challenge for the Memorial Cup.
Tremblay remains a long-term project though he has NHL starter upside. He will likely have to spend two more years in juniors and another several years in the minors however.
Petteri Lindbohm, D – Jokerit U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
6th round, 176th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 209 lbs
Lindbohm, like Walters, is a stay-at-home defenseman who specializes in defensive play. Unlike Walters, Lindbohm focuses more on his positioning and stick work, more than his bruising style in the defensive zone. The big defenseman's hockey IQ allows him to read plays and get his stick in passing lanes, breaking up plays, and quickly moving the puck out of the defensive zone.
Transitionally, Lindbohm is a decent skater, it's not necessarily a weakness in his game, but it is certainly not a strength. He has a very strong first pass to move the puck out of the defensive zone. His positional skills are top notch, he is strong on his skates, and can use his size to clear out the front of the net.
Lindbohm is not a traditionally big hitter, but he knows how to use his size to his advantage. He can play a hard, physical game at times, but need to be more consistent in his physicality. He is expected to spend the next two seasons in Finland before trying his luck in North America.
Tyrel Seaman, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
7th round, 206th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 194lbs
With their final pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, the St. Louis selected center Tyrel Seaman, a budding power forward from the Brandon Wheat Kings.
More of a playmaker than a scorer, Seaman has an uncanny sense of where the puck is going to be. He also possesses good size, which allows him to create more space to work offensively.
Seaman's play in the defensive zone is exceptional. He is a strong shot blocker, a very quick skater, and often breaks up offensive chances by the opposition.
Hailing from good farm stock, Seaman has impressive size and strength as well, and he has the ability to out muscle his opponents to battle through the dirty areas. Unfortunately, concussions have hampered his development and have kept him out of the line up last season.
Seaman will have to overcome his concussion issues if he wants to have a successful career. He has the upside to be a second line center in the NHL if he develops properly. Either way, this upcoming season will be critical to Seaman's development. If he can stay healthy, Seaman will likely be one of Brandon's top two centers and will the chance to play an offensive role.