Blues 2002 draft evaluation

By Kyle McMahon

When a team doesn’t pick until later in the second round of a draft, it’s no surprise when not many picks work out. St. Louis’ 2002 draft class is such an example. The nine draftees have combined for just 49 games played to this point (5.4 games per pick), all of them split between two players. None selected has had more than a marginal impact in the NHL, and that statement doesn’t seem likely to change.

Alexei Shkotov, C – 2nd Round, 48th Overall (Elektrostal, Russia)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

As the Blues’ first pick of the draft, it’s not surprising that Alexei Shkotov had the most promise out of all the players they selected. The Russian had the stickhandling and skating abilities to become a forward in the NHL, but his apparent lack of desire to play in North America has made his NHL outlook bleak.

The talented Russian had just turned 18 at the time he was drafted. He played one more season in Russia before deciding to play Canadian major junior with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts in 2003-04. In his only campaign in the “Q”, Shkotov dazzled with 31 goals and 73 points in just 43 games.

Shkotov turned pro for 2004-05, and produced reasonably well in Worcester, the Blues’ AHL affiliate at the time, with 12 points in 23 games. But he decided at this point that he’d prefer to play in Russia, leaving Worcester without warning. Since this point, he has played in the Russian Super League, and the results have been far from awe-inspiring. In 85 games in Russia, Shkotov, now nearly 23 years old, has produced a paltry 34 points while struggling with injuries at times.

Shkotov returning to North America at some point isn’t entirely out of the question, as the Blues still hold his rights. But unless he rediscovers the ability and the drive to succeed of years past, this is just wishful thinking.   

Andrei Mikhnov, LW – 2nd Round, 62nd Overall (Sudbury Wolves, OHL)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Standing 6’6, it appears as though big Ukrainian Andrei Mikhnov was drafted more on the basis of his imposing figure than his unimposing statistics, perhaps scouts believing he’d be fit to add some muscle to a third or fourth line in the NHL.

The second to last pick of Round 2 had a decent season leading up to his draft, with 32 points in 67 games with Sudbury. But he fell to just 25 points as an over-age player in 2002-03, when you’d normally expect a junior player to have his best season.

After his junior career, Mikhnov decided to go back to Europe and play in Russia, where he has switched teams and divisions several times. He has been able to put up big numbers in the lower leagues, but has just 10 goals and 22 points in the Super League, where he’s suited up for 94 games so far.

Mikhnov was never as aggressive as you’d expect a man of his size to be, likely one of the main reasons he never really had a shot at the NHL.   

Tomas Troliga, C – 3rd Round, 89th Overall (Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

The Blues snagged big Tomas Troliga, a centerman who had a good blend of skill and grit, with their third pick. Troliga looked like a solid prospect when he came over to North America to play in the WHL at age 19. His 2003-04 season saw him produce 34 points and provide an element of toughness for the Calgary Hitmen. From there, he moved on to the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, again achieving moderate success, with 36 points in 43 games.

But the 6’5 Slovak was unsigned by St. Louis and opted to return to his native country. Since then, he has played mainly with Slovak second division team Dragon Presov. He has continued to populate the score sheet (54 points in 33 games in 2006-07), but it doesn’t look like he will ever play in North America again. 

Robin Jonsson, D – 4th Round, 120th Overall (Bofors IK, Sweden)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Swedish forward Robin Jonsson never made the NHL, but he is likely thankful just to be playing hockey at all.

In his 2001-02 draft year, Jonsson played mostly with Swedish Allsvenskan club Bofors IK. But he missed almost all of the 2002-03 campaign after being diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, the young Swede was able to beat the disease and return to hockey. Since his comeback, he has played in both division one and the Swedish Elite League, with Bofors and Farjestads.

Jonsson is known for his hard work and good passing skills, but these attributes have never really translated onto the stat sheet. Jonsson’s best elite league season to date came in 2005-06, when he notched four goals and nine assists. In 35 games in 2006-07, the 23-year-old had eight points.

Justin Maiser, LW – 5th Round, 165th Overall (Boston University, NCAA)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Maiser, an American who played with the US Junior National Team, Boston University (NCAA), and the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), didn’t make it to the NHL in the Blues’ system, but he at least provided some respectable play in the minors. The Milwaukee native wasn’t the most skillful player, but he showed up ready to work every day.

Maiser turned pro in 2004-05, playing most of the season with the Peoria Rivermen, who were then playing in the ECHL. He scored 19 goals in 59 games, and supplied his team with his characteristic physical play and toughness. He made it up to the AHL for nine games as well, scoring one goal.

Maiser’s point totals dipped slightly in 2005-06, and he was not re-signed by the organization. He signed on with the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers for 2006-07, and enjoyed a successful 47-point campaign.

The 23-year old will probably be a decent ECHL player for the duration of his career.

D.J. King, LW – 6th Round, 190th Overall (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL)
NHL games played: 27
Status: NHL prospect

The highlight of the 2002 draft for the Blues, at least so far, is pugilist D.J. King.

The Saskatchewan native honed his craft in the rough-and-tumble WHL. He accumulated 425 penalty minutes in three WHL seasons before turning pro in 2004-05. King was used as an enforcer in the minors for the next two years, dropping the gloves with frequency in Worcester and Peoria in the AHL

King’s hard work paid off this season. He found himself in the NHL for 27 games in 2006-07, many of them in the latter portion of the schedule. During this time, King took on several established NHL heavyweights, and even scored his first NHL goal in a game against Phoenix.

The burly winger has made the most out of his limited abilities, but for him to be the team’s prize selection of the draft is clearly disappointing. King will probably remain a fourth-liner/ minor-league call-up, used by his coaches when some muscle is necessary. 

Jonas Johnson, C – 7th Round, 221st Overall (Vastra Frolunda, Sweden)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL bust

The Blues took a flier on 32-year-old Swedish center Jonas Johnson in the seventh round of the draft.

Johnson had played several years with Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League when the Blues selected him. He had produced well as an offensive forward, averaging around 40 points (in 50 games) per season in the years leading up to his draft, and was in fact MVP of the SEL in 2001-02.

The Blues were hoping to bring Johnson over to the NHL immediately, but at age 32, it’s not that surprising that he chose to remain in Sweden. Now 36, Johnson continues to play well with Frolunda, and is currently the captain of the team. 

Tom Koivisto, D – 8th Round, 253rd Overall (Jokerit Helsinki, Finland)
NHL games played: 22
Status: NHL bust

The selection of Tom Koivisto, a ten-year veteran of Finland’s top league, was similar to that of Johnson. The Blues were looking for an offensive-minded blueliner to step into the NHL right away. The 5’10 Finn had been named the league’s top defenseman for two years running at the time.

Koivisto did indeed make it to the NHL, suiting up for 22 games in 2002-03. He produced two goals and four assists, but spent most of the year in the AHL with Worcester, where he totaled 17 points in 47 games.

Koivisto stuck around in North America for one more year, and was traded to Phoenix for future considerations in March of 2004. He finished off the AHL season with 25 points in 45 games. Clearly not anticipating any regular time in the NHL, he decided to return to Europe, where he has played ever since.  

Ryan MacMurchy, RW – 9th Round, 284th Overall (Wisconsin, NCAA)
NHL games played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

The Blues’ final pick of the draft, Ryan MacMurchy, is the only player for which you could say the book is still being written.

The 2006-07 season was MacMurchy’s first in the pro ranks. He spent the previous four with the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA, where he was generally good for around 30 points a year.

MacMurchy has decent offensive capabilities and doesn’t shy away from physical play, but he didn’t quite perform up to expectations this season. He split the year between Peoria (AHL) and Alaska (ECHL). In 24 games with Peoria, MacMurchy registered four goals and an assist. He was somewhat more productive in Alaska, where he had 10 points in 18 games, and added another four goals in 15 playoff games.

MacMurchy probably doesn’t have the overall game to make it to the NHL, at least with any sort of permanency, but he should be capable of taking a regular shift in the AHL.

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