Blues junior prospects update

By Kyle McMahon

In recent years, the St. Louis Blues have drafted heavily out of Europe and the United States, but they still have some good talent playing in the CHL. All four of their current CHL prospects ply their trade in the Western Hockey League, and all four were drafted in the 2005 Entry Draft. Included in this group is defenseman Scott Jackson, who is ranked behind only Erik Johnson in terms of St. Louis’ prospective blueliners. They also have one prospect currently in the USHL.

Scott Jackson, D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Drafted: 2nd Round, 37th Overall, 2005

Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Scott Jackson heads the list of the Blues’ CHL prospects. A big presence at 6’4, Jackson plays a primarily defensive game, but also possesses playmaking abilities.

Jackson ended the 2005-06 season with 26 points, 23 of them assists, and has been no stranger to the score sheet through 22 games this season. As a veteran leader on the T-Birds blue line, Jackson has two goals and eight assists so far, to go along with 18 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating. Both of his tallies came on the power play in a mid-November game against Kelowna, in which he had three points.

Set to turn 20 years old early in 2007, this will almost certainly be Jackson’s final year of junior hockey. At the end of November, he will represent Team WHL at the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The Salmon Arm, British Columbia, native should figure prominently in the Blues’ future plans. If he continues his current scoring pace, he’ll set a career-high point total.

Nicholas Drazenovic, C – Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Drafted: 6th Round, 171st Overall, 2005

An offensively-gifted center who gets to play for his hometown Prince George Cougars, Nicholas Drazenovic is looking to improve upon a stellar 2005-06 campaign that saw him set career highs for both goals and points, with 30 and 63 respectively.

After 21 games in 2006-07, Drazenovic has only tallied four goals, but he has made up for that with increased playmaking production. He already has 13 assists, which leads the team, and is averaging nearly a point per game, with 17 in total. He has spent 26 minutes in the penalty box, somewhat more than one might expect based on previous totals, but as he has matured, he has been able to add a little bit of physicality to his game.

Prior to the start of the season, Drazenovic was named as one of the players who will share assistant captain duties with the Cougars. He also participated in a mini-camp with other St. Louis prospects in September. Like fellow prospect Scott Jackson, the speedy pivot will have the privilege of suiting up against Team Russia during the mini series, an event that he also took part in last year.

This is Drazenovic’s final year of junior eligibility, and so far, the Blues must be pleased with what they’ve seen from their sixth rounder. If he can round out his defensive game and continue to display offensive skill, he will have a chance.

Mike Gauthier, D – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Drafted: 6th Round, 169th Overall, 2005

Prince Albert’s Mike Gauthier is a big, physical defenseman. He is solid defending his own zone, using his size (6’3, 200 lbs) to his advantage to bump opponents off the puck and keep the front of the goal clear. Defense is his main focus, as his offensive skills are limited.

Gauthier’s 2006-07 season is off on the right track. He has appeared in all 25 of the Raiders’ games to date, and his toughness and ability as an enforcer can clearly be seen in the form of 126 PIMs. He has also increased his offensive production with a goal and eight assists for nine points, just three away from his career-best of 12, achieved last season. Currently, Gauthier’s plus/minus rating is sitting at minus-5, but that is actually one of the better ratings on a Prince Albert team that has not performed very well up to this point.

So far this is shaping up to be a career year for Gauthier, as is often the case with players in their final year of junior.

Ryan Reaves, RW – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Drafted: 5th Round, 156th Overall, 2005

Ryan Reaves is a sturdy winger with the Brandon Wheat Kings, noted for his hard work and athletic ability. His father, who played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, likely passed down these qualities to him.

Reaves plays a simple game with an element of toughness. He is not the fastest skater, so he has had to fashion his game into that of a hard-hitting role player, who opponents don’t enjoy being on the ice with. The 2005-06 season saw Reaves increase his scoring value by chipping in 14 goals and 28 points. This year, he has picked up where he left off with six goals and 15 points in total after 25 games. He has a plus-5 rating to go along with 38 minutes in the penalty box. Reaves really hit is stride in mid-October, where he enjoyed 10 points over a five-game stretch, though he has slumped somewhat throughout November.

Reaves’ skill level will never be that of a top-line player, but his hard work and good attitude should ensure that the Blues’ scouts get a good look at him in this, his final year of junior hockey.

Andy Sackrison, LW – Tri City Storm (USHL)
Drafted: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2006

High-scoring winger Andy Sackrison is in his first year of USHL hockey, after graduating from St. Louis Park (Minnesota) High School last spring. He was a goal-scoring machine in 2005-06, registering 42 goals and 69 points in just 26 games played. He was named to the second All-State team for his efforts. Sackrison uses his excellent stick-handling skills and soft touch around the net to put up such lofty numbers.

The recent draftee’s USHL career has begun well, as he is tied for fourth on the Storm with eight points in 14 games played, while also sitting amongst team leaders with 27 shots on goal. He has been used frequently on the power play, scoring one of his two goals, and four of his six assists, while his team held the man-advantage. He has played disciplined so far, with only seven PIMs. His plus/minus rating is minus-1, which is reasonable for a rookie early in the season, but he must continue to improve his defensive game.

Sackrison has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Minnesota – Mankato in the fall of 2007.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.