St. Louis Blues 2011 draft preview

By Timothy Freitag
Photo: After picking twice in the first round in 2010, selecting Vladimir Tarasenko (pictured) and Jaden Schwartz, the St. Louis Blues lack a first-rounder in 2011. Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Top 10 prospects

1. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW
2. Jaden Schwartz
3. Jake Allen, G
4. Ian Cole, D
5. Philip McRae, C
6. Ben Bishop
7. Jonas Junland, D
8. Jori Lehtera, C
9. Brett Ponich, D
10. Stefan Della Rovere, LW

Team Needs

The St. Louis Blues are loaded with promising young talent at all positions. The team is lacking, however, in veterans capable of steering the ship. Trading away Brad Boyes and Eric Brewer at the deadline, only Barret Jackman and Andy McDonald are older than 30 years old. With three 2nd round picks and two 3rd round picks, the Blues should be able to make moves to acquire a veteran or two to add to their roster.

Organizational Strengths

The Blues have a stable of young, talented players. The organization has drafted and developed many of its current NHL players and the depth the organization has built came in very handy this season. With top-line contributors like David Perron, Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman and Roman Polak all losing more than 20 games last year due to injury, there were many calls made to Peoria for reinforcements.

Youngsters Philip McRae, Ian Cole, Ryan Reaves, T.J. Hensick, among others, were called upon to contribute at the next level last season. While the Blues were not able to continue their early-season pace (9-2-1 through 12 games) with the call-ups, the organization's depth shone brightly for the future. In addition, players who would have stayed in Peoria most of last season were exposed to the speed of the NHL game and will enter next season with a better idea of what is expected of them at the next level.

An area of considerable strength can be found in the crease. A team that has long searched for stability from its netminders has exactly that with young Jaro Halak, Ben Bishop, and Jake Allen. In seven games last season, Bishop showed that he may be able to take on the full time role as the team's backup. That would allow Jake Allen to take over full-time duties in Peoria and build on his solid first season of pro hockey.

Organizational Weaknesses

While the Blues are definitely moving in the right direction, they must continue to build upon their depth in order to stay competitive in the wild, wild Western Conference. They must find youngsters or veterans to fill the voids created by the departures of some of their stalwart veterans.

With the loss of Eric Brewer and Brad Boyes at the deadline, John Davidson must find players to fill those roles. In the case of Brewer, the team must also find someone who can take over the captaincy. While the system is deep, it is also very young. A season relatively injury-free will go a long way in a rise up the standings.

Draft Tendencies

With five picks in the first three rounds, the Blues are on track to add considerable depth to their system. They have shown in the past that they are not afraid to move around in the draft to get the players they covet. Last year, for example, the Blues sent promising blueliner David Rundblad to the Senators for the 16th overall pick, which they used to draft top prospect Vladimir Tarasenko.

With three 2nd round picks, it is a good bet that John Davidson will try to get into the drafts first round and get the player he wants. At the trade deadline, he showed once again that he is not afraid to make a move by trading former first overall pick, Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and their 2011 first round pick to the Avalanche for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Av's second round pick.

The Blues have shown a definite preference for players out of Minnesota in the past by drafting David Backes, Erik Johnson, T.J. Oshie, and Cade Fairchild. However, they have not been shy about adding prospects from the USHL, Russia, or Sweden. Expect the Blues to move around in the draft to get the player or players they have identified to help their continued rebuild.