Game Time 2012 NHL Entry Draft Preview, Part Two

"BACK IN THE USSR," AND ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE, FOR THE BLUES:

Last week, in Part One of this Draft Preview, I made the assertion that the Blues' reputation as a Euro-centric drafting organization may not be as well-deserved as many think. It was noted that 50 of 86 players drafted by the Blues in the last ten years were North Americans rather than Europeans.

In a comment entitled "Europe" that was posted to last week's thread, "Game Time" reader CC_2112 noted:

I think there is a notion that the Blues draft heavily from Europe because they really do. Yes, since 2002 they have drafted more North Americans, but considering the amount of total players drafted from NA and Europe, this is no surprise at all. However, since 2002, 1653 North Americans have been drafted and 718 Europeans. Therefore 718 / 2371 = 30.3% of players drafted have come from Europe. Compare that to the Blues: 36 / 86 = 41.9% of Blues draft picks from Europe. That is significantly above the league mean, and so I don't think its fair to not acknowledge this European trend.

CC_2112 is correct in noting that the Blues have in the past ten years drafted more Europeans than the average NHL club (League mean 30.3%, Blues 41.9%). The more recent trend for the Blues, however, has been more towards major junior players and less towards Europeans. In the last five drafts (2007 through 2011), the Blues have selected 41 total players, and just 12 of those have been Europeans (29.3%).

Is the Blues' downward trend in regards to selecting Europeans reflective of a similar trend league-wide in the last five drafts? That's possible, and I will research that and report it next weekend when the Blues' 2012 selections are being made and profiled here.

It is true that in the last two drafts, six of 15 players selected by the Blues (40.0%) have been Europeans, but the smaller sample size tends to skew the numbers, and the 40.0% total is still below the 41.9% number for the last ten years.

The Blues do have a tendency to prefer the European skill set when making their early picks. In last week's Part One, four players were identified as probable first-round targets for the Blues and two of them -- Zemgus Girgensons and Tomas Hertl -- are Europeans (although Girgensons has played the last three seasons in North America). Of the Blues 12 first-round selections in the last ten drafts, five of them (Tarasenko, Rundblad, Eller, Berglund, Schwartz) have been Europeans, a total of 41.7% which is consistent with the overall percentage of Euros drafted in total by the Blues in that time frame.

Tarasenko draftThree of the Blues' seven first-round picks (42.8%) in the last five drafts have been used on a European player, and two of those players (Eller and Rundblad) were traded, one for the current starting goaltender and one for a pick used to select Tarasenko (pictured at left). League-wide, 33 of 150 players selected (22.0%) in the first round during the last five drafts have been Europeans (including seven players of European birth who were playing major junior when drafted).

The 2004 draft, in which seven of eight players selected were Europeans, would seem to be the basis for the perception that the Blues look to Europe first. More recent drafts, however, show a trend away from Europeans, as either two or three Europeans have been selected by the Blues in each of the last five drafts.

There's certainly nothing wrong with selecting Europeans in the NHL Entry Draft; indeed, as will be shown after the jump, the Blues could very well use every pick they have this year on a European, and come away with a pretty decent haul of prospects. The intent here is only to show that the Blues, while ahead of the NHL curve in selecting Europeans over the last decade, have been trending away from Europeans and towards less-risky picks of North American players.

AFTER THE JUMP:

On the other side, we'll profile three more possible first-round targets for the Blues, and profile seven players who project to be available in every round when the Blues' pick comes up... plus a few "bonus" players for the third round, in acknowledgement of the Blues' extra pick at the top of that round. Stay tuned.

Radar2On The Radar header

FIRST ROUND:

To recap, in last week's Part One of this Draft Preview, I profiled Zemgus Girgensons, who based on my analysis of the Blues' draft trends and preferences, seems to be a guy that would be very near the top of their list of realistic draft prospects. The Blues would probably have to trade up to draft Girgensons, however, as he is projected as a Top 15 pick in pretty much every mock draft out there.

Three teams with multiple first-round selections, including a selection in Girgensons' projected draft range, were also identified with whom the Blues could possibly deal in order to select the Latvian whiz. Those teams were Tampa (10th and 19th), Washington (11th and 16th), and Buffalo (12th and 21st).

Further, I profiled three additional players -- Tomas Hertl, Nicolas Kerdiles, and Colton Sissons -- who seem like probable targets for the Blues based on their projected draft range (20-30) and their skill sets, assuming that the Blues do not make a deal in order to trade up into the Girgensons range.

In keeping with the tradition of having seven possible picks for each round -- the "Game Time" Silver Seven -- we now present three more players who project to be available at or around 26th overall, and who's skill sets fit established draft trends for the Blues. All scouting reports and skill analyses come from the 2012 International Scouting Services Draft Guide.

Bystrom BW Ludvig BYSTRÖM ISS Report Card
Position Defense Size/Strength Good
Shoots Left Skating Very Good
Height 6' 00.50" Puck Skills Very Good
Weight 187 lbs Shot Good
Born Jul. 20, 1994 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Örnsköldsvik, Swe.
CSS Final 8th Europe 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 29th Overall R/S MoDo (SEL) 20 0 1 1 + 2 8 0 0 0
Hockey News 19th Overall R/S MoDo Jr (J20 SEL) 34 7 22 29 + 2 101 2 0 2
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Quick thinking; vision with puck; middle lane control. Weaknesses: Strength and overall speed and power; defensive zone coverage. Skill: Intelligent and physical, all situations defender. Another in the seemingly endless line of high caliber Swedish rearguards, Byström has talent in all three zones of the ice. He is a strong mobile skater who reads the play quickly and reacts effectively. He distributes the puck well, including a great first pass, but can also carry the puck into space on his own as well. Defensively, he plays an intelligent and calculated physical brand of hockey and can dominate the middle lanes, making him very difficult to win quality space against. His most impressive skill is his ability to execute plays under duress. He already has professional experience and is capable of playing big time minutes against high quality opponents. He still has a lot of room to add power. Needs to continue working on his defensive-zone coverage. NHL Potential: 2-4 defensive pairing with PP time.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJO)

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Matteau BW Stefan MATTEAU ISS Report Card
Position Center/Left Wing Size/Strength Very Good
Shoots Left Skating Very Good
Height 6' 01.50" Puck Skills Good
Weight 210 lbs Shot Good
Born Feb. 23, 1994 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Chicago, Illinois
CSS Final 17th N Amer 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 31st Overall R/S US NTDP U-18 46 15 17 32 0 166 4 0 2
Hockey News 30th Overall P/O DNP 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Size and mobility; competes hard; good PK specialist. Weaknesses: Needs to play with more discipline, takes too many needless penalties. Skill: Sees the ice well, and reads situations well; prototypical power forward. Matteau's energetic and determined style makes him easy to notice. He is capable of putting up good offensive numbers as well. He has size, skill, very good feet, toughness and he competes at a consistently high level. He is strong on the wall and works hard to protect the puck and get it out of the zone. He also moves and distributes the puck quickly. An entertaining player to watch, he has emerging power forward potential and does a lot of the little things right every shift. Matteau's major junior rights have been traded to Blainville-Boisbriand where his dad is coaching. Stefan is the son of ex-NHLer Stephane Matteau. He has committed to North Dakota, however we expect him to be in the QMJHL. NHL Potential: Second or third-line role & Leadership abilities.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Brooks Laich (WAS)

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Skjei BW Brady SKJEI ISS Report Card
Position Defense Size/Strength Very Good
Shoots Left Skating Excellent
Height 6' 02.75" Puck Skills Very Good
Weight 200 lbs Shot Very Good
Born Mar. 26, 1994 Hockey Sense Very Good
Where Lakeville, Minnesota
CSS Final 19th N Amer 2011-12 Club GP GL AS PTS +/- PIM PP SH GW
Intl Sct Svcs 26st Overall R/S US NTDP U-18 60 4 19 23 0 36 2 0 1
Hockey News 26th Overall WJC 18 United States 6 0 1 1 +10 4 0 0 0
SCOUTING REPORT
Strengths: Smooth skating d-man; oozes a ton of natural ability; reads and reacts well. Weaknesses: Needs to continue working on his defensive-zone coverage. Skill: Big smooth skating defender with great offensive potential and some reliable defensive instincts. Skjei is the kind of defensive prospect teams salivate over, a big, mobile and quick d-man who is confident and aggressive. Unfortunately his numbers were underwhelming this year and somewhat disappointing. With that being said, Skjei already has the look of a pro and should be able to develop better when given a more sturdy challenge. He is confident with the puck and uses his body well to shield possession. He attacks open lanes aggressively & has a solid shot that often finds the net. He is extremely good at grabbing bouncing pucks and settling them down before racing up the ice or firing good lead passes. He’s a difficult player to win space against during zone play. His offensive skill has really yet to emerge but it is obvious that there is an abundance of potential. NHL Potential: Second pairing defender who can play special teams.
STYLE COMPARES TO: Ryan McDonagh (NYR)

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SECOND ROUND... AND BEYOND:

More detailed profiles of the "Game Time" Silver Seven for Round Two will be posted later today, and the "Silver Seven" for the subsequent rounds will be posted throughout the week leading up to the draft. For now, here's a quick listing of the players that we're projecting to be targets for the Blues in the second round:

Player Pos Sh Ht Wt Club GP G A Pts +/- PIM From
Calle ANDERSSON D R 6-02 208 Färjestad Jr 49 12 24 36 + 5 56 SWE
Dane FOX C L 6-00 185 London/Erie 62 23 31 54 -12 87 CAN
Nikita GUSEV LW R 5-09 163 CSKA Jr 34 30 46 76 +23 26 RUS
Emil LUNDBERG RW L 6-03 203 Södertälje 51 6 12 18 + 1 12 SWE
Nik PROKHORKIN LW L 6-02 191 CSKA Jr 15 9 17 26 +13 47 RUS
Lukas SUTTER C L 6-00 207 Saskatoon 70 28 31 59 +15 165 USA
Brady VAIL C L 6-00 195 Windsor 68 22 30 52 + 1 55 USA
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