St. Louis Blues retain junior prospect pool with top-end talent and scrappy play

By Suraj Sukumar
Ryan Tesink - Saint John Sea Dogs

Photo: Feisty Blainville-Boisbriand winger Ryan Tesink, shown here as a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs, is one of several Blues junior prospects who have changed teams this year. (courtesy of Dave Connell/HF)

 
The St. Louis Blues currently possess one of the deepest prospects pools in the NHL. While names like Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz find their place with the NHL club, the future still remains bright for the Blues. More specifically, the Blues have a tremendous crop of young talent playing at the junior level who have demonstrated the potential to play at the professional level.

The difficulty of picking an absolute best at this point cannot be stressed enough. While Ty Rattie has produced phenomenal numbers at the junior level and remained top-dog for quite some time, up-and-coming players like Dmitri Jaskin and Jordan Binnington have emerged as great players in the CHL. Here is an update of the St. Louis Blues prospects at the junior level.  

WHL

Ty Rattie, RW, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall) in 2011

Ty Rattie has had a tremendous career with the Portland Winterhawks. After playing alongside talented teammates, such as Sven Baertschi (CGY), Rattie has emerged as the Winterhawks’ best player. While he started out slow in his 2012-13 campaign, Rattie is simply on fire. In the month of January, Rattie has at least a point in every game thus far, six goals and 12 assists in nine games to be exact. The Winterhawks currently sit first in the conference and the league, thanks to Rattie’s strong performance down the stretch. He currently sits fifth in league scoring even though he has played in fewer games due to the 2013 World Junior Championships.

If the St. Louis Blues did not possess such incredible depth at the wing position, Rattie could have very well had a chance to make the NHL roster.  Nevertheless, another season of dominating the WHL and potentially helping his team to the WHL Championship and Memorial Cup can only help his NHL future down the line. Rattie currently stands out as one of the Blues’ best prospects at the junior level and will continue to produce in the WHL for the remainder of the season.  

Tyrel Seaman, C, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 7th round (206th overall) in 2012

While Tyrel Seaman is still young, his career with the Brandon Wheat Kings has been less than spectacular, to say the least. He has yet to play a full season, and only played 24 games before going down with a concussion. He has yet to play a game since November, and has been sidelined indefinitely.

Seaman’s junior career is slowly coming to a close, and given the state of his health, his future within the Blues’ organization is difficult to predict. For now, Seaman will have to focus on recuperating and returning to full strength, before he can start focusing on reviving what is left of his junior career. An update on Seaman’s health will follow in the near future. 

Joel Edmundson, D, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: 2nd round (46th overall) in 2011

Joel Edmundson has been a productive defenseman at the junior level for three seasons and looks to be poised for a chance at the pro ranks next season. His combination of size and skill has been a leading force in helping Edmundson succeed at the junior level. To start the WHL trade deadline transactions, the Kamloops Blazers acquired Edmundson from the Moose Jaw Warriors with hopes of building a strong blue line for a playoff push.

The Blazers currently sit third in the Western Conference and will be taking on tough competition against the WHL’s best teams. Edmundson gives them an experienced defenseman that can help the team bang out some much needed wins down the stretch. After a minus-11 rating and only scoring eight points with the Warriors in 2012-13, Edmundson has been off to a hot start with the Blazers, posting three goals, 11 points and plus-15 rating in 19 games. This is exactly the type of player the Blazers were hoping to get, and in the long run, Edmundson’s experiences this season will help him reach his professional goals in the future.

Nick Walters, D, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 4th round (116th overall) in 2012

Adding to the already deep defensive corps in the St. Louis Blues’ prospect pool, Nick Walters has shown his gritty playing style in the WHL for two and a half seasons with the Everett Silvertips. Similar to Edmundson, Walters was traded at the deadline and is now with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Since the Wheat Kings are second last in the Western Conference, this was not a decision to make a playoff run. Maybe the change of scenery will help the young defenseman blossom. So far, Walters has played six games and has posted three assists and a minus-1 rating. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come. 

Two very important aspects of his game that need to be improved are his defensive play and penalties. He has yet to post a plus-rating in any WHL season and has surpassed 50 penalty minutes every year, although part of those totals result from his propensity for dropping the gloves (five fights this season). These are aspects, especially for a defenseman, that need to be changed in order to succeed at the professional level. Nevertheless, Walters is still young and will have plenty of time to develop as the Blues continue to maintain high-end talent at the defensive position.  

OHL

Jordan Binnington, G, Owen Sound Attack
Acquired: 3rd round (88th overall) in 2011

Jordan Binnington is capping off a stellar junior career that saw him play four full seasons with the Owen Sound Attack. Binnington did get a start in the AHL back in 2011-12, and even with solid numbers, the Peoria Rivermen lost the game. This season, Binnington was selected to the World Junior Championships for Team Canada but served as back to the starter Malcolm Subban (BOS). His experiences throughout the tournament will have surely prepared the goaltender for the big time.

The one thing that cannot be taken away from Binnington is his phenomenal season with the Attack. This year, Binnington has posted a 21-7-4 record and leads the league in goals against average (2.11), save percentage (.934), and shutouts (6). Being one of the best teams in the OHL, and after acquiring defenseman Cody Ceci (OTT) from the Ottawa 67’s, the Attack are poised to have a memorable season. If the Attack do find success in the playoffs, Binnington will have a major role to play for the team, which will help him develop into a great goaltending prospect at the professional level.

QMJHL

Dmitri Jaskin, RW, Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 2nd round (41st overall) in 2011

Other than Rattie, Dmitri Jaskin stands as the only other right wing mentioned in the junior players update. Jaskin has had experience playing in the Czech League with Slavia Praha HC so his transition to the junior level has taken no time at all. In his first season with the Moncton Wildcats, Jaskin leads the team in scoring, fourth in the QMJHL, with 31 goals and 70 points in just 37 games. He has shown tremendous skill at the junior level and has helped the Wildcats succeed in the process. They are currently fighting for a playoff spot and Jaskin will have everything to do with that run.

Similarly to Rattie, the experience of helping a team either make the playoffs or win throughout the playoffs will only help Jaskin in the long run. It will be interesting to see how the future of Jaskin plays out given the tremendous depth at the wing position.

Yannick Veilleux, LW, Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 4th round (102nd overall) in 2011

Yannick Veilleux, the teammate of Dmitri Jaskin, has had quite a memorable junior career. He started with the Shawinigan Cataractes and played three seasons. The gritty forward has proven he can score goals and throw down the mitts if necessary (three fighting majors so far in 2012-13). With that said, The Moncton Wildcats were interested in acquiring experienced players at the junior level, and Veilleux boasts exactly that.

Veilleux was not acquired for his rare fisticuffs, though, but for his experience at the higher level of junior hockey, most importantly his experience with Shawinigan at last season's Memorial Cup. He is currently averaging more than a point-per-game with 24 goals and 48 points in 45 games. If he can keep the minor penalties to a minimum (72 penalty minutes so far this season), his abilities on the ice can help the Wildcats make a run at the QMJHL Championship, and potentially, the Memorial Cup. If Veilleux can maintain this level of play at the professional level, his fourth round selection will look like a steal. Nevertheless, it will be some time before he sees some time with the NHL club.

Ryan Tesink, LW, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Acquired: 6th round (162nd overall) in 2011

Talking about steals, Ryan Tesink could be just that. After spending the first two seasons of his CHL career with the Saint John Sea Dogs and playing alongside Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA) earlier this season, Tesink was acquired mid-season by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. After scoring 16 goals and 37 points in 35 games with the Sea Dogs, Tesink currently has one goal and four points in his first six games with the Armada. All of his four points came in his first two games with the team.

With that said, there are several standout players on the Armada and it would be difficult for Tesink to standout compared to the prominent role he played with the Sea Dogs. Nevertheless, if he can prove valuable down the stretch for the Armada, his experience and skill will surely be a factor as he takes the next steps in his young career. 

Francois Tremblay, G, Val-d’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 5th round (146th overall) 2012

Francois Tremblay is currently in his third season with the Val-d’Or Foreurs and has posted less than spectacular numbers in all three. While this season remains his best, the numbers are slightly hard to swallow. Tremblay currently maintains a 16-14-3 record with a 3.30 goals-against-average and 0.894 save percentage. In comparison to his fellow Blues prospect Jordan Binnington, Tremblay is far from being a top-end goaltending prospect. Nevertheless, like many players, especially goaltenders, Tremblay will have ample time to develop the necessary skills to make it as a pro.

Junior 'A'

MacKenzie MacEachern, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
Acquired: 3rd Round (67th overall) in 2012

MacKenzie MacEachern has had his name flying around the hockey world after scoring a dynamic goal for the Chicago Steel earlier this year. Drafted in the third round, MacEachern has demonstrated good offensive skill but needs to develop many parts of his game before he becomes ready for the pros.

The Steel are currently in second to last place in the USHL Eastern Conference and will need talented players like MacEachern to step up if they are going to get back in it. So far this year, MacEachern currently has four goals and seven assists in 24 games with the Steel and has been held scoreless since December 28th. He is top-10 in team scoring but will most likely have a few years ahead of him to develop at the junior 'A' and college ranks before getting a crack at the pro level.