Blues 2009 draft review

By Robby Lewis

The Blues continued to be unpredictable at the draft table in 2009. With a system full of talented defensemen, many thought that St. Louis would take the best forward available on their draft board in the first round. But Assistant GM and Director of Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen took the best player on his board, and that was Swedish defenseman David Rundblad. It was the third time in four years that the Blues took a defenseman in the first round.

In subsequent rounds, they took players who were not on the radar of most scouting services, including Central Scouting.  Size is the tie that binds the six picks though, with only seventh-rounder Max Tardy under 6’2.

The Blues made only minor trades in the course of the draft. They sent a 2010 seventh-round pick to Nashville in exchange for a 2009 seventh-round pick, which allowed them to pick six players in the draft. The Blues chose three forwards and three defensemen. It was not all that surprising to see no goaltender taken given the pool available this year and given that the Blues have several goalies in the system already.

In all, St. Louis had the freedom to take several gambles given that they have an already stockpiled list of prospects. But it is clearer than ever that the Blues are making defense their No. 1 priority, and that size is important.

David Rundblad, D — Skelleftea AIK (Elitserien)

1st round, 17th overall
6’2, 190 lbs.

The poised defenseman was 10th on the Blues draft board according to Kekalainen. St. Louis was ecstatic that Rundblad was still available and add him to a defensive system that already has former first-rounders Erik Johnson, Alex Pietrangelo and Ian Cole. Rundblad recorded 10 assists in 45 games for Skelleftea in the SEL during the 2008-09 season.

Rundblad was one of seven Swedish players to be chosen in the first round. Kekalainen said a lot of things have changed with the developmental program in Sweden to make this number so high.

"They were in a situation five years ago where they had nothing coming," Kekalainen said. "They changed the whole program."

Rundblad has very good vision and is an expert in transition. The biggest pro for the young Swede is his ability to make open-ice passes and create offense quickly off of turnovers. The teams he has played for have shown lots of faith in his creativity and allow him to make the plays that may not seem logical all of the time.

The defenseman has a solid shot, but he needs to improve his defensive game, so he is not labeled strictly an offensive defenseman, He must learn to utilize his size better to become fearsome to opposing forwards.

Brett Ponich, D — Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

2nd round, 48th overall
6’6, 251 lbs.

Considered a reach, the Blues took Ponich because of his size. Ponich is not a great skater, and does not provide much offensive upside, but he can brawl and flat-out drop opposing skaters to the ground with little effort. He had one goal and 17 assists in 72 games for Portland.

St. Louis is hoping that Ponich will be able to improve his game enough and possibly become a late-bloomer for them. His size is comparable to Matt Walker, which is a good thing, but his skating is also comparable, which is not. His left-handed shot is solid, but it does not have enough accuracy to be NHL worthy. He displays solid patience for a young player, and Kekalainen said this was one of the main reasons the Blues drafted him so high.

"He’s an extremely hard-working kid," Kekalainen said. "He’s got a lot of desire to get better, and he’s working at it very hard. We think he’s got great patience with the puck for a guy who’s very long."

Chances are, Ponich will either be a hit-or-miss for the Blues. He could surprise some by becoming a physical juggernaut, but he also could be destined for many seasons in the AHL.

Sergei Andronov, RW — Lada Togilatti (KHL)
3rd round, 78th overall
6’2, 183 lbs.

The Blues selected Andronov with the hopes that he will be ready for a move to North America sooner than other prospects. Andronov is almost 20, and he was overlooked in other drafts because of subpar performances. During the 2008-09 season, Andronov scored eight goals and added 12 assists in 47 games.

Andronov can fly down the ice and plays a solid defensive game, which is not surprising because Togilatti plays a tight defensive game. His shot is accurate and he is very good at delivering saucer passes on the offensive side of the ice, showing that he does not sweat under pressure. He has continued to get better than age, and his age could work for him or against him. He will not have as long of a leash, but he also could have a leg-up on his fellow draftees.

Tyler Shattock, RW — Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
4th round, 108th overall
6’3, 190 lbs

Shattock, a right winger by trade, can play all three forward positions on the ice. He is the only pure offensive winger that St. Louis chose in the draft.

NHL teams could not ignore Shattock’s 30 goals and 39 assists this past season. He showed that he has a heavy shot and can hang with elite defenders. Kamloops threw Shattock on the ice when they needed goals and oftentimes he didn’t let them down. He was very good at getting garbage goals and showed off an impressive shot from the top circle on the power play.

When he signs a professional contract, he will likely start in the ECHL so the Blues can make sure his offensive breakout was not a fluke. It is hard to tell if he has the talent to mimic point-per-game numbers in the NHL, but the Blues may have gotten themselves a steal.

David Shields, D — Erie Otters (OHL)

6th round, 168th overall
6’3, 216 lbs.

Taking Shields from Brad Boyes’ alma mater, the Blues hope the Erie Otters have produced another gem. Shields is your typical stay-at-home defenseman. He is not afraid to get physical, but he knows his job is to play tight defense and he did a solid job of it for the Otters. He also had a goal and 16 assists in 61 games last season.

The strong defenseman did show flashes of offensive insight later in the season when he showed the Otters that he did possess a heavy shot. However, it will be beneficial for Shields to stick with what he’s good at. The Blues cannot seem to have enough defensemen, and Shields just adds more depth to the chart.

Max Tardy, C — Duluth East High School

7th round, 202nd overall
6’0, 168 lbs.

The Blues like Minnesota high schoolers. They struck gold with David Backes, and Tardy shows a lot of promise. He does not have much size, but he has a lot of talent in other areas. He scored 28 goals and added 20 assists in 25 games, and was a finalist for the 2009 Mr. Hockey award in Minnesota.

The center plays an explosive game and does not shy away from the net. He delivers solid hits and is a very good fore checker. He looks confident in the faceoff circle and plays very good in transition. If he adds a bit more muscle, he could be a third line player at least in the NHL.

Kekalainen said during the draft every player the Blues chose, they believe has a chance to make it to the NHL and make an impact.

"We can pick up average players on waivers," Kekalainen said.