2010 NHL Entry Draft Review

"Hello, St. Louis. I must break you."

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Kekalainen's Swan Song A Big Hit For Blues

Armstrong Puts His Stamp On Player Development Early In His Blues' Career

"Game Time" PROSPECT SUNDAYS

By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department


The last two weeks, culminating in the annual NHL Entry Draft over the last two days, have been nothing short of momentous in the charting of a new road forward for the St. Louis Blues' organization.

Longtime general manager Larry Pleau has stepped aside in favor of Doug Armstrong, who made an impact felt around the hockey world when he traded top prospect and 2010 AHL All-Star Lars Eller, along with gritty forward Ian Schultz, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for 25-year-old Jaroslav Halak, a goaltender with the world-class skill that has been lacking in the Blues' organization since the prime of Curtis Joseph's career.

And Blues' draft guru Jarmo Kekalainen made his last draft with the organization a memorable one, surprising fans and media alike with his selection of USHL scoring champion Jaden Schwartz at 14th overall, and with the selection two picks later of top Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, thanks to a trade engineered by Armstrong.

The acquisition of both Schwartz and Tarasenko was John Davidson's plan all along, according to this article at NHL.com. Both players were high on the Blues' list, and with a glut of high-caliber defense prospects in the system, the Blues were able to trade from their strength to acquire the 16th overall pick from Ottawa in exchange for Swedish defenseman David Rundblad, the 17th overall pick by the Blues in the 2009 Entry Draft.

Armstrong has also dealt two prospects from the organization in order to acquire a pair of young players with NHL experience who will make strong challenges for a spot on the Blues' roster this fall in training camp. All told, the Blues' braintrust old and new has added ten new prospect-age (under 25) players to the organization in the last two weeks, shoring up areas of concern at the NHL level and adding quality depth to the organization as a whole.

Here are the seven players chosen by the Blues in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft on Friday and Saturday:

### Player Ps S Ht Wt Birthdate 2009-10 Club/League GP G A Pts +/- PIM PP SH GW
14 SCHWARTZ, Jaden C L 5-10 180 25 Jun 92 Tri-City (USHL) 60 33 50 83 -6 18 16 4 4
16 TARASENKO, Vladimir RW L 5-11 202 13 Dec 91 Novosibirsk (KHL) 42 13 11 24 + 9 18 2 0 3
44 WÄNNSTRÖM, Sebastian LW R 6-01 180 03 Mar 91 Brynäs Jr (SWE Jr) 35 30 27 57 +20 55 7 0 8
74 GARDINER, Max C L 6-03 176 07 May 92 Minnetonka (HS-MN) 17 17 26 43 +27 14 4 1 0
104 HAKANPÄÄ, Jani D R 6-04 211 31 Mar 92 Kiekko-Vantaa Jr (FIN Jr) 23 2 12 14 ... 49 .. .. ..
134 BEACH, Cody RW R 6-05 180 08 Aug 92 Calgary (WHL) 51 3 11 14 + 6 157 0 0 0
164 MACAULAY, Stephen LW L 6-01 175 20 Apr 92 Saint John (QMJHL) 56 8 13 21 +18 39 0 1 1

Also, in a trade unrelated to the 2010 Entry Draft, Armstrong sent defense prospect David Warsofsky (currently preparing for his sophomore year at Boston University) to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka, a versatile player who can line up at either center or left wing (See HERE for the Toronto Star's analysis of the trade).

Prior to the draft, on the same day as the Halak blockbuster, Armstrong made another swap of prospects by sending Peoria forward Julian Talbot to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for "tweener" T.J. Hensick (See HERE for the Toronto Star's analysis of the trade).

Hensick's game isn't well-suitied to a fourth-line center role, where Sobotka's is more so, meaning that Hensick will likely be the scoring-line replacement for Eller in Peoria for 2010-11, with the likelihood of a cup of coffee or two with the Blues as an injury replacement on the wing.

Organizational Depth:

The moves made by Armstrong and the Blues during Draft Weekend have been classic examples of dealing from an area of organizational strength in order to shore up areas of the organization where there was a need for improvement.

Two high-profile defense prospects -- 2009 first-rounder David Rundblad and 2010 World Junior gold medalist Warsofsky -- were moved in separate deals over the weekend, in order to acquire a first-round pick in this draft (from Ottawa, used to select Tarasenko) and a solid NHL-ready prospect-age forward with a good two-way game (Sobotka, from Boston).

These moves, and the draft itself, have had a leveling effect on the organization as a whole. Some defense depth was sacrificed, but there is still more than adequate prospect depth on the blueline with:

-- Alex Pietrangelo, Nikita Nikitin, Ian Cole and Tyson Strachan all poised to make a strong push for NHL roster spots;

-- Two-time Memorial Cup winner Mark Cundari preparing to make his pro debut in Peoria this fall;

-- Players such as Brett Ponich and Cade Fairchild entering their final seasons of amateur eligibility;

-- A Swedish contingent of Jonas Junland, Alexander Hellstrom, and Kristofer Berglund on standby;

-- And the newcomer Hakanpää, with his intriguing size and potential

At forward, the loss of NHL-ready prospect Eller will be felt in the short term, although the acquisition of Sobotka brings a player to the organization who is a year or two ahead of Eller on the development path, and who plays a similar game. In Schwarz and Tarasenko, the Blues added heirs apparent to T.J. Oshie and David Backes in the prospect ranks, as Schwarz's game is comparable to Oshie's and Tarasenko's game to that of Backes.

Sebastian Wännström brings elite-level scoring ability and a touch of grit to the wing, where the organization was in need of those qualities, and Max Gardiner is a big center with room to grow, and with a college commitment to give the Blues a four-year cushion in which to allow for that growth.

The Blues did not draft a goaltender this year, but there is still quality depth in the organization with Ben Bishop and 2010 World Junior silver medalist Jake Allen battling it out for the starter's role in Peoria, and 2008 draftee Paul Karpowich entering his junior year at Clarkson (ECAC) this fall.

Get to know the seven newest members of the St. Louis Blues organization, after the jump.

14th overall, Jaden Schwartz, C, Wilcox, Saskatechewan

Schwartz sweater 2010 Draft Schwartz

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...LINK to Schwartz profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Schwartz profile at USHL.com

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16th overall, Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Yaroslavl, Russia

Tarasenko sweater 2010 Draft Tarasenko

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...LINK to Tarasenko profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Tarasenko profile at KHL.com.

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44th overall, Sebastian Wännström, LW, Gavle, Sweden

 Wännström sweater 2010 Draft Wännström

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...LINK to Wännström profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Wännström profile at Elite Prospects.com.

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74th overall, Max Gardiner, C, Edina, MN

Gardiner sweater 2010 Draft Gardiner

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...LINK to Gardiner profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Gardiner profile at MN Hockey Hub.com.

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104th overall, Jani Hakanpää, D, Kirkkonummi, Finland

Hakanpaa sweater 2010 Draft Hakanpaa

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...LINK to Hakanpää profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Hakanpää profile at Elite Prospects.com.

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134th overall, Cody Beach, RW, Kelowna, British Columbia

Beach sweater 2010 Draft Beach

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...LINK to Beach profile at Hitmen Hockey.com.

...LINK to Beach profile at WHL.ca.

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164th overall, Stephen Macaulay, LW, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Macaulay sweater 2010 Draft Macaulay

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...LINK to Macaulay profile at NHL.com.

...LINK to Macaulay profile at LHJMQ.qc.ca.

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Finally, please be advised that "Prospect Sundays" will be on hiatus for the next month or so.

Now that the draft is over, and since there's no Development Camp (a situation that still causes some consternation here at Game Time Prospect HQ), your Game Time Prospect Department is taking a few weeks off to journey down to the outskirts of Hell Phoenix for a well-earned vacation, and to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Prospect Mom and Prospect Dad.

So, until next time, remember... "if we do not prepare for ourselves the role of the hammer, there will be nothing left but that of the anvil." Auf wiedersehen.

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