Blues 2004 draft evaluation

By Robby Lewis

The 2004 NHL Entry Draft was a disappointing one for the St. Louis Blues. The Blues had eight picks and only two of them have played a game in a Blues uniform. This draft was not the one that triggered the Blues’ current impressive prospect system.

The eight picks played a total of 100 NHL games, for an average of 12.5 per pick.

Marek Schwarz, G – 1st round, 17th overall (Sparta Praha, Czech)
NHL Games: 6
Status: NHL Prospect

Considered by many as the best European goaltender in the draft, Schwarz was drafted by a Blues team that had lots of young goalie talents. Even though they were deep, Schwarz was drafted because he was thought to be an elite prospect.

Schwarz moved to North America the next year and played one season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, compiling a 26-24-4 record and with a 2.67 GAA and a modest .900 save percentage.

The following year, Schwarz went back to the Czech Republic to play. He returned in 2006-07 and played for the AHL Peoria Rivermen before debuting with the Blues on Dec. 12, 2006.

Schwarz has played mostly in the AHL and sometimes in the ECHL. His numbers have been average. He has only seen time in the NHL for injury call-ups and even then mostly backs up. Schwarz is behind Ben Bishop on the depth chart, and will probably never be a starter with the Blues.

Carl Soderberg, C – 2nd round, 49th overall (Maimo IF, SEL)
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

The 6’3 center was drafted by St. Louis with the hope that he would develop into a solid power forward. He has never had a problem scoring and scored 12 goals and added 18 assists in 31 games in the SEL in 2006-07 before suffering an eye injury.

The problem with Soderberg was the Blues were not sure if they could convince him to come to North America. Soderberg was traded to the Bruins in exchange for goalie Hannu Toivonen in 2007.

The Bruins are not having much luck bringing Soderberg over either. Soderberg said he does not want to come to North America until he is ready.  The past two years he’s been playing in the Allsvenskan with Malmo.

Viktor Alexandrov, RW – 3rd round, 83rd overall (Novokuznetsk Metallurg, Russia)
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Bust

The smooth-skating Alexandrov was drafted because of his speed and knack for creating scoring chances. He had trouble scoring in Russia until a breakout season in 2007-08 with the Novokuznetsk Metallurg. He notched 20 goals and 24 assists in 55 games.

Alexandrov chose to go to the KHL for the 2008-09 season, where he scored two goals and added nine assists in 35 games.

Alexandrov has showed little interest in coming to North America, but he does still remain Blues property. Chances are that he will play out his entire career in Europe.

Michal Birner, LW- 4th round, 116th overall (Slavia Praha Jr., Czech)
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Prospect

Birner was drafted by the Blues because of his hard work and determination. He had excellent speed and St. Louis saw him as a future role player.

The Czech native changed his reputation with a great final season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, finishing with 31 goals and 54 assists in 60 games. Birner made his professional debut in 2006-07 playing with the Peoria Rivermen, scoring 11 goals and adding 17 assists in 66 games.

In 2007, Birner was traded with Doug Weight for Andy McDonald. Birner could not find his scoring games with the Portland Pirates of the AHL, finishing with seven goals and six assists in 40 games during the 2007-08 season. Birner started the 2008-09 season with the Iowa Chops of the AHL, but left for the Finnish league early in the year.

Birner is still Ducks property and he still has a chance to make it to the NHL some day.

Nikita Nikitov, D – 5th round, 136th overall (Omsk Jrs., Russia)

NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Nikitin was chosen with the pick that was given to the Blues in the Mike Van Ryn trade in 2003. The Blues drafted the Russian defender because of his puckmoving ability and strong skating stride.

Since being drafted, Nikitin has played exclusively with the Omsk Avangard in Russia. He has played consistently, scoring at least 13 points in his last three seasons. Avangard has shown great improvements with his physical play and has also become more disciplined.

Nikitin remains Blues property, but it doesn’t look like he will be signed any time soon. He will likely never make the jump to North America.

Roman Polak, D – 6th round, 180th overall (Vitkovice Jr., Czech)
NHL Games: 94
Status: NHL Regular

Polak has been the most successful draft pick by the Blues. Drafted out of the Czech Republic, in his 2004-05 season with the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, he scored five goals and added 18 assists in 65 games.

Polak’s assets are not his offense. He is very solid on defense and is as physical as they come. He made his NHL debut on Oct. 9, 2006 and played in 19 games that season. He played in six games the following season, and became an NHL regular during the 2008-09 season.

In the 2008-09 season, Polak played in 69 games, finishing with a goal and 14 assists. He was paired with Barret Jackman for most of the season and the two were paired against the opposing team’s top scoring line on most nights.

The Blues are very high on Polak and he has already developed into a top-four defenseman. He has has played the most NHL games of the Blues 2004 draft class, and turned out to be a huge steal in the sixth round.

David Fredriksson, F – 7th round, 211th overall (HV 71 Jrs., Sweden)
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Bust

At 6’3, 220 pounds Fredriksson is very hard to knock off the puck and he plays very solid defensively.

After being drafted, the Blues did not sign Fredriksson; he has not been able to find any scoring touch in the Swedish Elite League. Playing pretty much exclusively with the HV71 Jonkoping, Fredriksson has never scored more than five goals or had more than nine points in a season.

The Blues no longer have Fredriksson’s rights, and it is pretty much certain that he will never play in the NHL.

Jonathan Boutin, RW – 9th round, 277th overall (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL)
NHL Games: 0
Status: NHL Bust

Boutin had good offensive instincts and the size of an NHL player. Boutin was drafted after having a great year with the Shawnigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, scoring 31 goals and adding 29 assists in 70 games. After that season, Boutin’s success rate started to drop.

In 2005, Boutin left the QMJHL for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport. There, he put up decent numbers, but against much weaker competition. He has signed to play in France next sesaon.