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Plethora of Picks & Prospects

By Brian Weidler

[This article originally ran in the Mar. 8 issue of St. Louis Game Time.]

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft is beginning to look like it could turn into “The St. Louis Blues Show”. Taking into account the picks acquired by the Blues in deals made at the trade deadline both this season and last, the Blues could be looking at a bonanza of as many as eight picks in the top 100 selections in Columbus this June, including a franchise-first three picks in the first round. Thanks to shrewd deal-making by John Davidson and, yes, Larry Pleau, this year represents nothing less than a golden opportunity for Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting staff to shine on the NHL’s biggest stage of the off-season.Â

In Jarmo We Trust.

The Blues will have their own pick in the first round in addition to Atlanta’s first-round selection, courtesy of the Keith Tkachuk trade, and -- in an ironic twist that Hollywood couldn’t have scripted any better -- New Jersey’s first-round selection as well, previously acquired by San Jose in the Vladimir Malakhov selloff and sent to the Blues in the Bill Guerin deal. The Game Time Prospect Department wishes to officially thank Mr. Guerin, for not only reviving your career at a bargain price while providing the Blues with timely offense, but also for making it possible for Blues fans everywhere to tell Lou Lamoriello for a change that “yeah, we gotcher first-round draft pick right here, Uncle Lou….”Â

Lou Lamoriello Is Not Pleased With Weidler's Giddiness.

 And that ain’t all, as the old song goes. The Blues will have high picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds, plus Atlanta’s third-round pick (again from the Tkachuk deal), and Chicago’s fourth-round selection by way of Carolina in last year’s Doug Weight swap. Oh, by the way, the Note will have a pick in the sixth and seventh round as well; no fifth-rounder, though, that having been sent to Boston earlier in the year in exchange for Yan Stastny.Â

Show of hands; who thought, at the beginning of this season, that the Blues could possibly obtain emerging star Brad Boyes and Stastny, he of the famous bloodline, for the low, low price of Dennis Wideman and a fifth-round draft pick? Those with their hands raised, please pick up your Nostradamus Society membership cards after tonight’s game, and Miss Cleo’s agent is holding on line two.

Based on the standings as of Wednesday night, the Blues will choose seventh overall in this year’s draft, and there will be a wide variety of top prospects to choose from at that stage. The biggest names -- Russian Alexei Cherepanov, US World Junior and London Knight scoring ace Patrick Kane, and British Columbian whiz kid Kyle Turris -- will more than likely be gone, but there will still be at least one player left available who can fill a glaring organizational need for the Blues and be considered the best player available at that stage as well. Expect to see the Blues concentrate on offense and use their first pick to select the best young offensive weapon they can find. Whether it’s Czech import Jakub Voracek of the Quebec League (RW, 6’1, 190), “made in USA” James van Riemsdyk (LW, 6’3, 205) , playmaking center Sam Gagner (5’10, 190) of the London Knights juggernaut, or another player with blood ties to St. Louis, Brandon Sutter (C, 6’3, 180) of the Red Deer Rebels, the Blues are certain to be adding a legitimate blue-chip offensive prospect to the mix this year.Â

Sutter and St. Louis go together like JeffCo and meth, after all.

 If the season ended today, Atlanta’s pick -- now the property of the Blues -- would be the 19th overall. At that spot, the Blues can go in a couple of different directions. They can stick with offense and choose from players like these who will likely be available at that point of the draft -- James O'Brien (C, U. of Minnesota, 6’2, 185), Mikael Backlund (C, Västerås, 6’0, 195), Zach Hamill (C, Everett, 5’11, 180), Brett MacLean (LW, Oshawa, 6’1, 200), or big Keven Veilleux (C, Victoriaville, 6’5, 202). Or they can look to add more depth to their already-impressive stable of defense prospects by choosing from among likely candidates such as Kevin Shattenkirk (US U-18, 5’11, 190), Nick Ross (Regina, 6’0, 195), offensive catalyst Thomas Hickey (Seattle, 5’11, 186), or Calgary’s big (6’4, 225) Alex Plante.

Jim O'Brien could join fellow Gophers Erik Johnson and Jay Barriball.

 Finally, the Blues can use New Jersey’s pick â€" doesn’t that just roll sweetly off the tongue, Blues fans? -- to continue to add to their selection of offensive weaponry by pulling in Euros like Joakim Andersson (C, Frölunda, 6’2, 200), Vladimir Ruzicka (C, Slavia Prague, 6’1, 180), or Vitali Karamnov (F, Dynamo-2 Moscow, 6’0, 192), son of the former Blue of the same name. They could also get the European skill level combined with the North American presence and grit by drafting Chilliwack’s Oscar Moller (C/LW, 5’10, 185), Rimouski’s Maxim Gratchev (LW, 5’11, 196),  or Vancouver's Michal Repik (RW, 5’10, 185). Each of these players is currently projected to be available in the 25-45 range of the draft.Â

All told, based on Wednesday night’s standings, and assuming that there are no compensatory or supplemental picks awarded in the early rounds, the Blues will have selections at around 7th, 19th, 26th, 37th, 67th, 78th, 94th, 97th, 157th, and 187th overall. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that the Blues could package a couple of those picks to trade up a few spots, or trade down and add some prospects via the trade route.Â

We here at the Game Time Prospects Department are even more fired up than usual over this year’s draft; this kind of excitement hasn’t been felt around draft day since... well, since last season, when the Blues had the first overall pick for the first time in franchise history, and when top prospects Erik Johnson and Patrik Berglund were added to the organization. Couple that with the fact that this year’s draft is taking place in Columbus, as close as it’s been to home since the 1996 draft was held right here in St. Louis, and the anticipation is approaching fever pitch in these quarters. Â

In the next edition of Tomorrow’s Blues, we’ll focus on Peoria’s stretch drive as they engage in a dogfight with several other clubs for the last two playoff spots in the AHL’s Western Conference. We’ll also review the seasons to date for the Blues’ prospects on
Peoria’s “Clear Day” roster for the AHL playoffs. Until then, 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.