Blues Parlay 30th Pick, Inherit Top Prospect

By pbadmin

That would be a nice headline for Blues fans to read on Sunday morning in St. Louis. So what if the “Note” doesn’t
have a high pick in the first round, does it really matter? The Blues have notoriously had bad luck when it comes to
their first selection, whether it is in first round or not. In the past thirteen years there have been forgettable names
such as Stephane Roy, Maxim Bets, Steve Staios, Craig Johnson, defenseman Jason Marshall with the 9th pick in
’89, and Keith Osborne. Not exactly a great track record. However, history has shown that the Blues have a knack
for finding that elusive needle in the haystack when it comes to late round picks. Rookie playoff sensation Jochen
Hecht was taken 49th overall in ’95. Michael Grier, now in Edmonton, was the 219th pick in 1993. Bret Hedican was
chosen 198th in ’88, and Guy Hebert was taken with the 159th pick in ’87. And let’s not forget top prospect Ladislav
Nagy was chosen 177th in the 1997 Draft. So Ted Hampson, Director of Amateur Scouting, has pulled a few rabbits
out of his hat. If only Hampson could pull off some of his magic in the first round, now that would be a trick.

Let’s first take a look at the top 10 players that may be available when the Blues are ready to select. Left winger
Tomas Kurka has great speed and scoring potential, which puts him at the top of the list. Having seen the Blues draft
several Czech players in recent years, Kurka would fit in nicely. He didn’t put up huge numbers last year for
Plymouth in the OHL, but he was just a rookie and a point per game isn’t bad. Kurka has potential to be a second
line scoring winger, so the Blues would be advised to jump at him with the 30th pick. Another player with great
potential is Jonas Nordqvist, however, he is viewed by many as a wild card. Nordqvist is a talented center with
excellent puck skills and hockey sense. The only thing holding him back is that his skating is well below average. If
you believe that he can improve that area of his game, then Jonas could be a star. He has great playmaking ability
and can score as well, although he is thought more of as a passer. He has good size at 6-2, 191 pounds, and even
though he’s not accused of playing physical he will not be intimidated. If you think he’s a sleeper, then be prepared to
wait a while for his star to shine.

Next up are a couple of defensemen that should peak the Blues interest. Libor Ustrnul is a huge specimen
standing 6-5 and weighing 228 pounds. He plays a sound game and is more or less just concerned with his own zone.
Libor has good mobility for his size and if not for his puck handling skills you could make the case that he is a
mid-first round pick. Most everyone agrees that his upside is a physical 5th or 6th defenseman. Considering Ustrnul
as the safe pick, Kurtis Foster is a gamble with more potential. He has a big frame (6-5, 205 pounds) that still has
some filling out to do. Foster is good in his own zone and also plays physical when necessary. He has a cannon for a
shot, which makes him effective on the powerplay. His upside is considered as a big, physical 4th defenseman. The
only drawback to Kurtis’ game is his skating. If you believe, however, that his mobility will improve over time, then
Foster may be the better pick over Ustrnul.

Two more players that should be available are Thatcher Bell and Antoine Vermette. Both are centers that play in
the QMJHL and both have good skill. Bell is a very good skater, although he doesn’t get his nose dirty often
enough. He tends to shy away from traffic and that could hurt him come draft day. Vermette, on the other hand, has
drawn comparisons to his former teammate Simon Gagne. Antoine is a smart player that has potential as a scorer.
He had improved stats over last seasons totals, while Bell put up similar numbers both years. Vermette played well
for Canada in the under 18 tournament in the Czech Republic. Having not seen much ice time in his first year because
he was playing second fiddle to Gagne in Quebec, Vermette seems to have the edge over Bell in the long run.

Other players worth a look are two centers Shane Endicott and Tomas Kopecky. Both have size and have
skating limitations. Endicott figures to have the better offensive potential, however, Kopecky may be the safer pick
because he has soft hands and plays a gritty game. Neither player really should be taken in the first round however.
Two wingers that could draw some attention are Justin Williams and Matt Pettinger. Williams is a skilled right
winger that doesn’t have the size or strength as of now to succeed at the next level, and that scares many teams
away. On the other hand, Pettinger has decent size (6-0, 205 pounds) and likes to use it, but isn’t considered a
scorer. If it were down to these two players, the bet should be on Williams to get stronger rather than Pettinger to
acquire a scoring touch.

As for the second round, there are a few good players that could still be available. One factor that could effect the
outcome in round two is players re-entering the draft. Ramzi Abid, Justin Papineau, and goaltender Mathieu
Chouinard are the most prominent names. The Blues would be lucky to get a shot at Abid. He has received some
abuse in the media for not signing with Colorado, however, his scoring prowess can’t be overlooked. There are some
that question his skating and overall potential at the next level, but someone will no doubt take a flyer on him before
the Blues pick in round two. Other interesting names include forwards Ben Knopp, Alex Drozdetsky, Brad
Winchester, Andy Hilbert, and defensemen Matt DeMarchi and Gerard Dicaire.

Rating the top ten players available 1st Round:

1. Tomas Kurka-LW
2. Jonas Nordqvist-C
3. Antoine Vermette-C
4. Justin Williams-RW
5. Kurtis Foster-D
6. Libor Ustrnul-D
7. Shane Endicott-C
8. Matt Pettinger-LW
9. Thatcher Bell-C
10. Tomas Kopecky-C

Rating the top ten players available 2nd Round:

1. Ramzi Abid-LW
2. Ben Knopp-RW
3. Justin Papineau-C
4. Alex Drozdetsky-LW
5. Brad Winchester-LW
6. Gerard Dicaire-D
7. Andy Hilbert-C
8. Matt Demarchi-D
9. Mathieu Chouinard-G
10. J.F. Racine-G

Draft History:

Best Draft Pick…….Bernie Federko 7th pick overall in 1976

Worst 1st rd. Draft Pick Last 20 Years….Keith Osborne 12th pick overall in 1987

Best 1st rd. Draft Pick Last 20 Years…..Rod BrindAmour 9th pick overall in 1988

Highest Draft pick……Perry Turnbull 2nd pick overall in 1979

Best Draft steal…….Doug Gilmour 134th overall in 1982

Best Draft year……..1976 (Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Mike Liut)

Worst Draft year……1983 (Did not attend draft)