Graduations and trades lead to new names in St. Louis Blues Top 20

By Suraj Sukumar

Jake Allen - St. Louis Blues

Photo: Goaltender Jake Allen moved up to the number one spot in the Blues Top 20 following the graduation of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz (courtesy of Russell Lansford/Icon SMI)

Since the previous Top 20 rankings, the St. Louis Blues have changed dramatically in terms of prospects and those will be reflected in this edition of the Blues’ Top 20.

Making their way to graduation are two of the Blues best prospects, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. While Schwartz has had a major coming out party this season, Tarasenko has proven his abilities as a full-time NHL player over the past couple years.

At the start of the season, the wing position was extremely deep and might have been one of the best in the NHL. However, with Schwartz and Tarasenko moving on, and the underperforming prospects at the position, the Blues are looking much stronger at other positions. While center remains the biggest red flag in the system, the defensemen and goaltenders have improved dramatically.

1. (3) Jake Allen, G, 7.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2008

Allen has already played in the NHL and proved his abilities as a number one, but the Blues recent moves suggest that the NHL squad might want to keep the younger goaltenders at bay while they chase the Stanley Cup. On the brighter side, Allen has been the go-to-guy for the AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves and has played extremely well. In 46 games played this season, Allen has maintained a 2.12 goals against average and .925 save percentage. His record is 29-15-2 and he has shown the ability to carry the load for the Wolves, which helps him take over the top spot in these rankings.

2. (5) Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2011

This year, Jaskin has surpassed all expectations and has performed well in the AHL. He has scored 15 goals and 14 assists in 42 games. He was recently called up to the NHL once again and has played in 12 games thus far. Jaskin has proven his versatility as an all-around forward, being reliable in the defensive zone and providing secondary scoring when necessary.

3. (6) Jordan Binnington, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 88th overall, 2011

Binnington is another player suffering from the immense depth at the goaltending position. Though he has the skill to perform as an AHL player, he has been forced to play in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings. This season, Binnington has played in 33 games and has posted a 2.28 goals against average to go along with a 0.924 save percentage. His performance has been good enough to move him into the top five prospects in the Blues’ system.

4. (4) Ty Rattie, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2011

Going into his first year of professional hockey, it was a concern that Rattie would be undersized or not enough of an all-around player to make an impact immediately. This season, playing as a rookie with the Wolves, Rattie has scored an impressive 27 goals and 15 assists in 64 games. He is not an effective player in a bottom-six role, which limits his production as an all-around player. Rattie will be staying in the AHL until his offensive skills become more consistent.  

5. (7) Tommy Vannelli, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2013

Vannelli is an example of the perfect prospect for the Blues. Not only does he have the potential to be a solid offensive defenseman, but he is young enough to not worry about NHL playing time and focus on making his game better. Playing with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Vannelli put up an impressive 14 goals and 27 assists in 60 regular season games played from the blue line. He should stay at the junior level for the foreseeable future.

6. (9) Joel Edmundson, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 46th overall, 2011

Edmundson is enjoying a solid rookie campaign with the Wolves and has demonstrated effective defensive skills throughout the season. His four goals and four assists may not be a great showing offensively, but he is regarded more as a defensive-minded player who can perform at both ends of the ice. If he can pick up the offensive slack and stand out as an AHL player, there is a chance we could see Edmundson make his NHL debut in the near future. For now, he will remain with the Wolves as he becomes a more reliable two-way player.

7. (8) Jordan Schmaltz, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2012

Schmaltz had a pretty good rookie campaign but has really taken off as a sophomore. This season, Schmaltz has scored six goals and 17 assists in 38 games. While his offensive and power play skills are well on their way, his defensive abilities are still a work in progress and he will need to become a more all-around player as he makes his way to the professional level.

8. (10) Jani Hakanpaa, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2010

Hakanpaa has been a bit of a late bloomer as a North American player but is gaining a step this season. He has played in 43 games this season and has scored three goals and three assists with a plus-15 rating. He is an absolute giant on the ice, standing 6’4 and weighing 218 pounds, but can skate quite well for his size. However, his offensive capabilities and skating are two areas he could improve on to become a better player.

9. (16) Colton Parayko, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2012

Parayko finds himself in the top 10 after starting the season at 16th on our list. As a rookie he put up solid numbers in 2012-13, but as a sophomore, he has really proven his abilities. He has played in 37 games this year, scoring seven goals and 19 assists. With regards to improvement, his skating needs extra attention as he makes his way to the professional level. Nevertheless, Parayko still has two more seasons of college hockey to make the necessary changes in his game.

10. (19) Petteri Lindbohm, D, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 176th overall, 2012

With so many prospects either graduating or getting moved, players like Lindbohm will get a boost due to his experience and potential. This year, Lindbohm started the season with Assat Pori and played 19 games. He managed one goal and four assists in those games but maintained a plus-3 rating. After getting back to Jokerit this season, Lindbohm has scored just one assist in 18 games but has shown his defensive capabilities. He still has one more year left on his contract with Jokerit Helsinki so it will be interesting to see if he makes his way to North America for the following season.   

11.  (NR) Francois Tremblay, G, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 146th overall, 2012

Tremblay has made a great case for joining the top 20. Going into the 2013-14 season, Tremblay stuck with the Foreurs and maintained a record of 16-7-0, but his individual numbers were something to forget, maintaining a 3.11 goals against average and a .890 save percentage. However, he was moved to the Victoriaville Tigres mid-season and has excelled with them ever since. Playing in 25 games with the Tigres, Tremblay has improved to a 2.66 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. This is a great way to finish his junior career and look to the professional ranks next season. 

12.  (12) Ryan Tesink, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 162nd overall, 2011

If it were not for a long history of injury problems in the QMJHL, Tesink could be a little higher on this list. He is a phenomenal skater and has shown some offensive flair throughout his junior career. This season, Tesink has played in 47 games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and scored 36 points. Outside of his point production, Tesink can be a very capable two-way forward and is a fierce competitor. This will be his final season at the junior level and it will be intriguing to see what role he picks up once he becomes a professional player next year.

13. (17) Sam Kurker, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2012

Due to a lack of playing time and desire to do more on the ice, Kurker decided to leave the college ranks and join the USHL. Since then, Kurker has played in 19 games for the Indiana Ice this season and has scored a respectable three goals and seven assists. He is just 19 and it will be a long time before we see him make it to the next level, so focusing on becoming a better all-around player should be his primary goal.

14. (NR) Tyler Shattock, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2009

Though he is part of an aging draft class, Shattock has been given his first true opportunity this season and has done well with his playing time. In his fourth season of AHL hockey, Shattock has played in 51 games and scored four goals along with 12 assists. This may not be a massive hike in production, but he is putting up career bests including a plus-6 rating. He is a versatile forward but will need to improve in all aspects of the game if he hopes to garner more playing time next season.

15. (13) Yannick Veilleux, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2011

Veilleux played in just two games with the Wolves before being sent to the ECHL this season, but has made the best of his opportunity. In 55 games this season, Veilleux has scored 15 goals and 18 assists to go along with a plus-15 rating. Veilleux could become a very reliable power forward at the professional level but will need to improve his defensive game and become a more consistent offensive force.

16. (11) Max Gardiner, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, 2010

There have been a few underperforming players this season and Gardiner is surely one. He has recorded just one assist in 22 games for Penn State. He hurt his ankle in late February and has not played in a game ever since. He will need to regain a step in his next college season to move up in the rankings.

17. (NR) Sergei Andronov, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2009

This season, Andronov continued his strong two-way play and has even improved offensively. In 44 games played, Andronov has scored 11 goals and 12 assists in limited time on the ice. He has played a good secondary role with the team and has even maintained a plus-14 rating. If he continues to impress, it would not be surprising to see him crack the top 15 at the start of next season.

18. (NR) David Shields, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2009

After putting up a total of nine assists in 107 games in the AHL, Shields has been able to score five goals and 10 assists in 55 games this season. Furthermore, he was a career minus-13 in the AHL but has improved in that category as well, maintaining a plus-10 rating, Shields is another player who could see a rise in the top 20 rankings and a much larger role with the Wolves next season.

19. (NR) Zach Pochiro, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 112th overall, 2013

This season, Pochiro has done even better as a second year player, scoring 27 goals and 39 assists in 63 games. With how much time he spends in the penalty box, it is quite amazing to see his point totals at such a high pace. However, he will need to become a more disciplined player to have a larger impact on the ice. Pochiro earned a look at the pro level to end the 2013-14 and is currently skating with ECHL Kalamazoo.

20. (20) Mackenzie MacEachern, LW, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2012

In 36 games as a freshman at Michigan State, MacEachern has scored eight goals and four assists. If so many of the Blues’ prospects were not underperforming, it remains to be seen if MacEachern makes this list. He is still just 20 years old and will have to spend a few more seasons at the college level.