Defensive Prospects Continue to Flourish

By Chris DeGroat

On the last game of the regular season, defenseman Barret Jackman began what will likely be a long career wearing a Bluenote. In his first game with the Blues, he played with amazing poise and a lack of respect for the veteran Red Wings that left the Detroit players impressed.

In all likelihood, Jackman will be a regular on the blue line for St. Louis beginning this fall. When he officially makes the team, he will join Alexander Khavanov, Bryce Salvador, and Mike Van Ryn as the fourth Blues mainstay on defense to come out of the Blues farm system in the past two years.

What is impressive is that even with four defensemen moving up to the NHL level recently, the farm system is still loaded with defensive prospects that should have the Blues set well beyond the Al MacInnis years.

Not quite ready to make the jump to the NHL is stay-at-home defenseman Matt Walker, a player that Larry Pleau raves about every time he gets a chance. If it weren’t for Blues coach Joel Quenneville’s favor towards veterans, Walker might actually have a chance at making the team in the fall. But, since there will already be four defensemen with two or less years of NHL experience, it’s not likely.

Antoine Bergeron, who was selected 96th overall by the Blues in the 2000 draft, will be moving up to the professional ranks this fall. Bergeron is an offensive defenseman with the puck-moving skills.

Another defenseman that will hopefully join the IceCats for the 2002-03 season is 1998 first round pick, Christian Backman. Backman stated last summer that he wanted to play one last season in the Swedish Elite League before finally coming to North American to join the organization.

For one reason or another, defensemen seem to prosper within the Blues organization while forwards do not. And, even though the Blues lack depth in other positions, don’t be surprised if they stick with what works and draft even more defensive players.