The Blues entered the 2008 draft with 10 picks at their disposal. As a team that is in the middle of rebuilding, each pick was precious. Blues President John Davidson has repeatedly trumpeted his organization’s mantra of “build from within,” and this year’s draft was critical to seeing that mantra implemented.
Much like the seeding for the draft lottery, there were really no surprises by the time the Blues No. 4 pick came around. The three teams ahead of St. Louis picked the undisputed top three players in the draft. There were plenty of options, but in the end, the Blues went with the pick that most people expected them to take.
Alex Pietrangelo, D – OHL Niagara
Drafted: First Round, 4th overall
Stats: 6’3, 206 pounds
There were two risks involved with this pick – his current health and his current strength. Those two factors are tied to each other due to the mononucleosis he contracted. Couple that with a partially-herniated spleen which he suffered during his U18 team’s playoff run, and Pietrangelo already had a few extra hurdles to clear. In fact, Pietrangelo was not cleared by his doctors to begin skating again until July 1. So, up to that point his conditioning had been strictly limited to the weight room.
But Pietrangelo’s upside was too good for the Blues to pass up. His 53 points in 60 games and 94 PIMs for Niagara only emphasize the fact that this offensive-minded defenseman has all the strength, skills, and toughness to be a major factor in the NHL. Additionally, Pietrangelo has already vowed to do everything he can to make the NHL squad this season. Either he makes the NHL club outright, or he must return to his OHL team.
Still, Pietrangelo is widely considered to have all the tools to be a top-two defenseman in the NHL – speed, strength, smarts, and the ability to make that good first pass.
Philip McRae, C – OHL London
Drafted: Second Round, 33rd overall
Stats: 6’2, 189 pounds
With the 33rd pick, the Blues selected Philip McRae, son of former NHL alumni Basil McRae. This selection caused a bit of a stir as nepotism, due to the fact that Basil McRae is a scout for the St. Louis organization.
But these claims don’t have merit. As a member of St. Louis’ own Junior Blues club at 15, he helped the St. Louis-based hockey club win the National Championship. He then went on to join the U.S. Development Program in Michigan and was later drafted 20th overall by the London Knights of the OHL. As his skill sets progressed, he was named to the Team USA U18 roster this past June.
Philip McRae is expected to become an impact player for the Blues in the near future. Unlike his father, who was known for his “enforcer” talents, Philip is much more offensive-minded and has the skills to execute those instincts.
Jake Allen, G – QMJHL St. John’s
Drafted: Second Round, 34th overall
Stats: 6’2, 175 pounds
Allen is considered to be an athletic goalie with good size and puck-handling skills. Even though his stats were modest during the QMJHL season (9-12, 3.14 GAA), it was during this year’s IIHF U18 tournament where he truly stepped forward. Allen led Team Canada to the gold medal with a record of 6-1-0 and a GAA of 1.43. He was also named MVP of the U18 tournament.
Jori Lehtera, C – SM-liiga Tampere
Drafted: Third Round, 65th overall
Stats: 6’2, 191 pounds
Lehtera, who moved to the Finnish Jr A league two years ago, finished this past season with 42 points in 54 games. Some concerns about Lehtera early in his career was that he was not a very strong team player and that he relied on his skills alone to excel. However, his game seems to have matured over the past year and has developed into a more well-rounded player while continuing to improve his playmaking skills. He is still under contract to play in Finland for Tappara Tampere until 2010.
James Livingston, RW – OHL Sault Ste. Marie
Drafted: Third Round, 70th overall
Stats: 6’1, 200 pounds
The Blues received this pick from Toronto for Jamal Mayers, and used it to select James Livingston. Livingston scored 21 goals and 44 points in 68 games with the Greyhounds last season. This was a significant improvement from the previous season’s total of 7 points.
However, his most impressive stat may be the 135 PIMs he garnered last year. At 6’1 and 200 lbs, he’s already an intimidating presence with a well-known mean streak. The hope is that his offensive skills continue to improve to become a power forward, or at least an enforcer with good hands.
Ian Schultz, RW – WHL Calgary
Drafted: Third Round, 87th overall
Stats: 6’1, 200 pounds
With their last pick in the third round, the 87th, (the pick the Blues received for trading Bill Guerin in 2007 to San Jose), the Blues chose Ian Schultz. Schultz is similar to Livingston in the sense that he gets noticed for his physical play, perhaps even more so than for his offensive skill. He garnered 15 goals and 30 points in 67 games last season, but he also earned 128 PIMs. Schultz could eventually become a power forward, but he may also develop into a solid grinding winger.
David Warsofsky, D – U.S. National Team Development Program
Drafted: Fourth Round, 95th overall
Stats: 5’9, 170 pounds
The defenseman will begin this year playing for Boston University. At 5’9 and 170 lbs, he’s not likely to intimidate anyone at the blue line, but while playing for the U.S. Development Program, he recorded 9 goals and 32 points in just 42 games. Obviously, he’s an offensive-minded defenseman (the type of player that the Blues organization desperately needs), but he’ll likely need to add significant muscle and a few more inches to his frame to become a NHL defenseman. Of course, if he can continue to produce offensively, his lack of size would become less of a factor.
Kristofer Berglund, D – Allsvenskan Björklöven
Drafted: Fifth Round, 95th overall
Stats: 5’10, 180 pounds
No relation to the Blues highly-touted Patrik Berglund (drafted 25th overall in 2006), Berglund is a defenseman who played last season for Bjorkloven in the Swedish second-division league, Allsvenskan. He collected 4 goals and 25 points in 42 games. For U18 Team Sweden, he had one goal in six games for the team that eventually took home the silver medal. At 5’10 and 180 lbs, he is considered a defensive defenseman who could take some time to make it to the NHL due to his current size. It will depend on if he can improve his offensive skills and add some muscle to his frame.
Anthony Nigro, C – OHL Guelph
Drafted: Sixth Round, 155th overall
Stats: 6’0, 189 pounds
In his past season with the Storm, Nigro scored 24 goals and 48 points in 67 games. He could end up being a steal in the sixth round, since Nigro apparently has a scorer’s touch to go along with his fearlessness. With a 6’0, 189 lbs frame, he is also not afraid to mix it up if need be.
Paul Karpowich, G – OHA Wellington
Drafted: Seventh Round, 185th overall
Stats: 6’0, 160 pounds
The Blues were not supposed to have a pick in the seventh round since they traded it away along with Doug Weight for Andy McDonald early last season. But at the last minute, they traded their seventh-round pick for 2009 to get Los Angeles’ seventh-round pick in this year’s draft.
With that pick, the Blues, at No. 185, selected goaltender Paul Karpowich from the Ontario Jr. A Hockey League known as the OHA. As a goalie for the Wellington Dukes, he collected a record of 15-3-2, with three shutouts and a GAA of 2.15. For the playoffs later that year, he went 9-4 with a GAA of 2.72 in 13 games. However, his save percentage for the regular season (0.922) actually went up slightly during the playoffs (0.923).
At 6’0 but only 160lbs, Karpowich is certainly a weight room project. But the Blues thought highly enough of him to make a deal to acquire him. And his stats, while earned in the Ontario Provincial Junior “A” League, were nonetheless impressive.