Well, the ’99 season has come to a close. And now, as is tradition, we direct our attention to “The NHL Draft”. Even before St. Louis makes its first selection, Blues fans have reason to be excited about the team’s future prospects in the organization. The “build from within” approach instituted by CEO & President Mark Sauer and GM Larry Pleau is ahead of schedule. Young players, that in previous years would be dealt for immediate help, have begun to emerge from Worcester. Michal Handzus had a solid first season in the NHL. He is already regarded as one of the top defensive players in the game; the offense will come in time. Lubos Bartecko made contributions late in the year and showed that he is close to playing full time with the big club. In the playoffs, Jochen Hecht was a pleasant surprise. He showed the great puck skills and skating ability that enabled him to lead all players in points in Worcester. If he can continue his great play, expect him to settle in at left wing for the Blues next year. Jamal Mayers also played well down the stretch. And Marty Reasoner is not too far down the road. That being said, Let’s take a look at the possibilities for the Blues at this years draft.
September 1998 will go down in Blues annals as one of change with an optimistic eye toward the future. This camp was the first one in more than 10 years in which Brett Hull was not present. Also missing from last year’s roster were defenceman Steve Duchesne and forwards Blair Atcheynum and Darren Turcotte.
The Blues made no major trades over the summer and the training camp would provide an opportunity for some of the Blues’ new young talent to step to the forefront.
The major holes the Blues were looking to fill were a #2 center, which would enable Pavol Demitra to move to wing, a checking line RW to replace Blair Atcheynum, provided Scott Young was playing on one of the top two lines, and a scoring line LW, where the Blues have little depth. The Blues have good depth on defence and appear to be set in goal with Grant Fuhr and Jamie McLennan.
On July 24, the St. Louis Blues announced they had signed forwards Marty Reasoner, Ladislav Nagy, Andrei Podkonicky, Derek Bekar, and Tyson Nash. They also signed defencemen Jason Widmer and Tyler Harlton, to contracts and these players will be in training camp in September. What will this mean for the Blues in 98-99 and beyond? Jason Widmer and Tyson Nash are bound for Worcester, barring unforseen developments. Nash played in Syracuse and Widmer in Kentucky and they should help the depth in Worcester. Nash plays LW, so anything he can offer will interest the Blues, who don’t have much depth on the wing. Widmer played at Worcester for a couple of seasons while it was an Islander affiliate, so perhaps he is a fan favorite of the Icecat faithful.