Last weekend in "The '14 File," we saw a listing of players who were "consensus" picks at 20th overall or below, based on an average of their rankings in seven different mock drafts. This week, we're breaking that list down a little further in order to take a closer look at five players -- all forwards -- who project to be available in the range in which the Blues will be drafting.
Keep in mind that, as long as the Blues do not re-sign Ryan Miller or trade his rights prior to the draft (both scenarios are less than a sure thing at this point), they will have a late first round pick and an early second round pick from the David Perron trade with Edmonton last summer... so there is a better than even chance that the Blues could come away with not one, but two of the following players in the upcoming draft.
|Position||Center||NHL.com East Scout||22|
|Shoots||Right||NHL.com West Scout||N/R|
|Height||6' 00.50"||ISS May 2014||26|
|Weight||192 lbs||CSS Prelim||WHL B|
|Born||Feb. 7, 1996||CSS Midterm||31 NAm|
|Where||High River, AB||CSS Final||35 NAm|
|2013-14||Red Deer (WHL)||71||29||39||68||+ 3||48||10||0||2|
|Red Deer (WHL) Tiebreaker||1||0||1||1||- 2||0||0||0||0|
|Canada (WJC U-18)||7||1||1||2||0||4||0||0||0|
|2012-13||Red Deer (WHL)||66||9||9||18||- 4||28||2||0||2|
|Red Deer (WHL) Playoffs||9||2||1||3||- 1||0||1||0||0|
|"The Right Stuff: You are 17 years old and the Team Canada U20 Coach, Brent Sutter, makes you captain of his club team, the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. You must have the right stuff: leadership, maturity, competitiveness, completeness and enough on-ice ability to lead by example. There you have Connor Bleackley. 200 Foot Player: Connor is an all-around forward in the making who plays effectively and efficiently in all three zones. He could use a little more weight and a little more physicality but good things come to those who work on them. He has a top notch wrister with a quick release, drives to the net and competes hard on the forecheck. Draft Placement: All over the map, from 13 to 40. Those that have him in the teens must be expecting even more offensive production from him than he has shown to date. Editor's Notes: Bleackley may just be the Bo Horvat or Curtis Lazar of this year’s draft – not necessarily replicating those prospects in terms of styles of play, but the fact that all three of these players should be branded with "Can’t Miss." They each have "NHL pro" written all over them. Connor is already a solid two-way player with still room to grow from an offensive output standpoint." -- TheHockeyWriters.com|
|Position||Center/Left Wing||NHL.com East Scout||26|
|Shoots||Left||NHL.com West Scout||N/R|
|Height||6' 01.50"||ISS May 2014||22|
|Weight||187 lbs||CSS Prelim||SWE Jr A|
|Born||Sep. 13, 1996||CSS Midterm||3 Eur|
|Where||Kramfors, Sweden||CSS Final||6 Eur|
|2013-14||MODO (SHL)||45||5||6||11||+ 5||12||0||0||2|
|MODO J20 (Superelit)||20||3||16||19||+ 6||32||1||0||2|
|Sweden (WJC U-18)||7||1||6||7||- 2||16||0||0||1|
|2012-13||MODO J20 (Superelit)||39||6||7||13||- 7||36||2||1||1|
|"The Bull: Adrian is not your typical Swedish dangler; he is more like a bull in a china shop that heads directly to the net and is not afraid to run over anyone in his way. Size And Speed: At 6'2, 187 lbs., Adrian possesses the size and speed that today’s NHL teams are looking for. Other Skills: Adept playmaker, good stickhandler, heavy shot, elite wrister, tenacious forechecker, decent defensively. Draft Placement: With all the small players in this year’s draft, Adrian is likely to go sooner rather than later – the teens most likely." -- TheHockeyWriters.com|
|Position||Center||NHL.com East Scout||N/R|
|Shoots||Left||NHL.com West Scout||29|
|Height||6' 03.50"||ISS May 2014||25|
|Weight||185 lbs||CSS Prelim||OHL B|
|Born||Feb. 14, 1996||CSS Midterm||33 NAm|
|Where||St. Louis, Missouri||CSS Final||20 NAm|
|2012-13||USA U-17 (NAHL)||52||15||10||25||...||6||2||1||2|
|"Offense: Add great hands and passing ability to a 6'4 frame and you have a solid foundation to build upon. While his shot doesn't make the goaltenders cringe like his dear old Dad did, he does possess a very good wrist shot with a nice release. Defense: Has the makings of a strong two-way forward with size. He is not quite there yet but you can see it in his future. Future Improve-ments To Make: Ryan is not a physical player but is working to improve in this area. If he adds some weight and strength to his lanky 6'4, 185 lb. frame, then I think he will find much more success and confidence in the physical side of the game. Draft Placement: Rankings are many, and clustered from the late first to mid second. While his results for the year have not been overwhelming, teams looking for size with skill are not going to pass over this guy for long – a solid second with a good chance of a late first." -- TheHockeyWriters.com|
|Position||Center||NHL.com East Scout||27|
|Shoots||Right||NHL.com West Scout||27|
|Height||5' 11.50"||ISS May 2014||24|
|Weight||172 lbs||CSS Prelim||USHL A|
|Born||Feb. 23, 1996||CSS Midterm||19 NAm|
|Where||Verona, WI||CSS Final||19 NAm|
|2013-14||Green Bay (USHL)||55||18||45||63||- 3||16||11||0||5|
|Green Bay (USHL) Playoffs||4||1||2||3||- 1||17||0||0||0|
|2012-13||Green Bay (USHL)||64||18||34||52||+ 2||15||7||0||5|
|Green Bay (USHL) Playoffs||4||1||1||2||- 2||0||1||0||0|
|"Mr. Playmaker: What separates Nick from his peers is his special hands and vision which allows him to make plays at high speed or in tight. He has the ability to set up his linemates when no options are apparent. Big Game Hunter: Nick seems to perform his best in big games or in international situations where the spotlight is on him. Genes: His brother, Jordan Schmaltz, was drafted 25th by St.Louis in 2012; who will get bragging rights in the Schmaltz family? Draft Placement: Mid twenties on most lists. May need to turn it on to go higher as his play at the club level, while good, has not quite matched his exceptional play in international situations." -- TheHockeyWriters.com|
|Position||Left/Right Wing||NHL.com East Scout||29|
|Shoots||Left||NHL.com West Scout||N/R|
|Height||5' 11.00"||ISS May 2014||21|
|Weight||185 lbs||CSS Prelim||SWE Pro A|
|Born||Feb. 28, 1996||CSS Midterm||5 Eur|
|Where||Prague, Czech Republic||CSS Final||4 Eur|
|2013-14||Linköping (SHL)||24||2||1||3||- 3||2||0||0||0|
|Linköping J20 (Superelit)||24||14||11||25||+ 6||26||1||0||3|
|Czech Republic (WJC U20)||5||1||1||2||- 1||1||0||0||0|
|Czech Republic (WJC U18)||7||8||2||10||+ 3||4||1||0||2|
|2012-13||Linköping J20 (Superelit)||32||20||12||32||+ 3||49||4||0||5|
|Czech Republic (WJC U20)||6||0||1||1||+ 1||2||0||0||0|
|Czech Republic (WJC U18)||5||2||0||2||- 4||2||0||0||0|
|"Mr. Dynamic: Jakub is a guy who can get the fans out of their seats with his dynamic offense. He can electrify the crowd with his high-speed moves in traffic but it is his ability to accelerate and vary the pace of the game which truly sets him apart from the others. Skills: Elite skating especially acceleration and agility, creative passing, top-notch wrister. Intangibles: Hangs out at the right place at the right time, high-end creativity and vision. Issues: He is under-sized, lacks strength and has a defensive game that is not yet up to snuff. A natural centre who can also play wing, Jakub has not yet found a lot of success playing for Linköping of the SHL, the top Swedish professional league. He has, however, averaged just over a point a game at the junior level this year with the Linköping J20 club. Draft Placement: Mid twenties to mid thirties on most lists. Jakub needs to improve his defense and have a breakout WJC U18 to improve upon his current rankings. The strength issue is something he can work on over the summer but it will come too late to help him in the draft." -- TheHockeyWriters.com|
In terms of raw talent, Vrana and Schmaltz would appear to have the edge over the other three players profiled above. Macinnis is the tallest, with a very projectable frame upon which to build, while Bleackley is the heaviest at a trim 192 pounds. Kempe and Bleackley appear to be the strongest two-way players of the "Fab Five," while Macinnis probably has the most upside... and he is his father's son.
Your "Game Time" Prospect Department has these players ranked in order as follows: Kempe, Macinnis, Schmaltz, Bleackley, Vrana. Kempe is the most likely of these players to be gone by the time the Blues get around to picking, followed by the highly-skilled Schmaltz... but if either (or both) of those players are left on the table when the Blues' turn comes, either would be a solid first-round choice.
There are two other players that your GTPD is keeping an eye on for this draft, two Europeans who have traveled far from their home countries to play high-level hockey abroad. Winger Kevin Fiala (pictured at left) is a true European citizen; his parents are Czechs, he was born and raised in Switzerland (for whom he plays in international competition), and he is currently skating in Sweden for the HV-71 organization. In 17 games with the SHL club, Fiala managed a 3-8-11 scoring line (minus-2, 10 PM, 1 GWG), while with the J20 Superelit squad, Fiala put up a 10-15-25 scoring line (plus-10, 40 PM, 3 PPG, 3 GWG) in 27 games.
The 5'10, 180-pound Fiala is described by "The Hockey Writers" website as a player with the "drive and determination to make a difference. He has that Canadian type drive to the net at all costs mentality that makes him a special player." The site goes on to note that Fiala has "(e)xplosive get-go, elite stickhandling, elite hands, (and a) deadly shot. Add vision, drive, determination and you have the makings of a top six NHL forward."
On this side of the Atlantic, Russian-born winger Nikita Scherbak has made an impact in the rough-and-tumble Western League by demonstrating top-notch hockey sense and playmaking ability along with a willingness to get his nose dirty and play with grit. The 6’ 2, 175-pound Moscow native posted a strong 28-50-78 scoring line (minus-6, 46 PM, 8 PPG, 2 GWG) in 65 appearances with the Saskatoon Blades, and made a very smooth transition to the North American ice surface and playing style.
"The Hockey Writers" website describes Scherbak as a player with "high-end offensive skills," as well as "the hands to make slick passing plays, the skating with the mobility and agility to elude defenders, a very effective shot with a pro release plus the vision to make maximum use of his physical skills." he is regarded as very coachable, and is eager to learn and adapt to the North American game.
Both Fiala and Scherbak made significant jumps upward on the Central Scouting rankings from midterm to the final, and those jumps probably put these two players in the Top 20, and thus out of the Blues' range. If they should drop to the last third of the first round, however, we rank Fiala just behind Kempe and just ahead of Macinnis, and Scherbak just behind Schmaltz and just ahead of Bleackley.