By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
St. Louis Game Time PROSPECT SUNDAY
It's that time of the year again, ladies and gentlemen... the Stanley Cup Finals are coming down to the nitty-gritty (Fear The Bear – Go Bruins!) and your Game Time Prospect Department's favorite event of the hockey year - the NHL Entry Draft - is right around the corner.
This draft, to be held on June 24-25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, is the first since 2002 where someone other than Jarmo Kekalainen will be in charge of the Blues’ selections. Kekalainen has returned to his native Finland and a GM position with the legendary Finnish side Jokerit Helsinki, and former Dallas assistant GM Doug Armstrong is calling the shots now for the Blues, along with former Blues’ Eastern scout and current Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong (no relation). Senior Advisor on Hockey Operations Larry Pleau, and VP of Hockey Operations Al Macinnis, will also play big roles in the process, as will lead scouts Mike Antonovich and Ville Siren.
As of now, the Blues will have six selections in the top 101 picks – 32nd, 41st, 46th, 71st, 87th and 101st – and a total of nine picks altogether. This year's first-rounder, as you know, was moved to Colorado in the Chris Stewart trade, and Colorado’s second-rounder at 32nd overall came back in the deal. The 46th pick came from Buffalo in the Brad Boyes trade, and the 87th from Tampa Bay in the Eric Brewer deal.
Per Armstrong, however, the Blues might not be using all of those picks in those positions. In an interview with NHL.com staff writer Adam Kimelman, Armstrong noted that he may be intent upon using some of those "extra" picks as bait to entice a club with multiple first-round picks (he identified Colorado, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto as potential partners) to trade down for a few additional picks in later rounds.
"With the possibility of the way our picks are clumped together there's the potential to move up into the first round, we believe," Armstrong told NHL.com. "We approach it pretty well the same way. You still have to do your homework; you never know what's going to transpire at the draft table. We're approaching it the same way as if we had a first pick. My experience shows me where you think you can move to in the first round with the assets we have and we'll focus in that area."
Armstrong also noted that this draft, while not considered "strong" by many of the experts, is very deep in potential NHL prospects, and "the player available at 23 or 24 could be just as good as the player available 43 or 44."
"There's really good depth in this draft," Armstrong said. "Our scouting staff has a belief where certain players will go. There's a range that if we can move up to we'd like to get into (but) history has shown that players that go in the early 30s have the same success as players that go in the early 20s. You just have to do your homework, know your players and understand what you're looking for in an NHL player."
Before we look ahead to this year's draft, and to the players that your GTPD and some of the experts have identified have identified as likely targets for the Blues, we'll take a look back at the last eight drafts to try and establish any trends or statistical anomalies that may help to narrow the field somewhat for us draftniks.
More after the jump.
The following pair of charts will help us to identify which players the Blues have taken in which draft position for the years 2003 through 2010 (the Jarmo Kekalainen Era). These charts show the country of origin for each Blues' prospect selected in the Kekalainen Era, by round, and which on-ice position (defense, forward or goal) each draftee played, again by round.
CHART # 1: Draftees By Round, By Nation of Origin, 2003-2010
CHART # 2: Draftees By Round, By Position, 2003-2010
Some basic conclusions can be drawn from the above charts, as follows:
1. The Blues favor Canadians over players from any other single nation of origin, with over one-third of the total players drafted between 2003-2010 coming from our neighbor to the North.
2. The United States has also produced a large number of past and present Blues' prospects. Five drafted players have come from the United States League (Junior A), four more from the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, MI, and five from US high school programs.
3. When selecting players from Europe, the Blues are most likely to look to Sweden (9 draftees) or Russia (7 draftees) than any other European nation.
4. In the first round, the Blues are more likely to select a Canadian forward than any other position or nation of origin. Two of the four Canadians selected in the first round have been forwards (Jaden Schwartz and David Perron), and two have been defensemen (Alex Pietrangelo and Shawn Belle).
5. Two of the three Americans taken by the Blues in the first round have been defensemen (Erik Johnson and Ian Cole), with T.J. Oshie being the only American forward taken by the Blues in the first round.
6. of the five Euros chosen by the Blues in the first round, three have been forwards (Vladimir Tarasenko, Lars Eller, Patrik Berglund), one a defenseman (David Rundblad), and one the only goalie chosen by the Blues in the first round since John Davidson in 1973 (Marek Schwarz, 17th overall in 2004).
OUR DRAFT PREDICTIONS:
Based on the above charts, here are the positions/countries of origin that your Game Time Prospect Department is predicting for the the Blues with the selections they currently have:
SECOND ROUND: A Canadian forward, an American defenseman, and a Swedish forward.
THIRD ROUND: An American goaltender and a Russian forward.
FOURTH ROUND: An American defenseman.
FIFTH ROUND: A Canadian forward.
SIXTH ROUND: A Canadian forward.
SEVENTH ROUND: A Swedish forward.
COMING NEXT WEEK:
Current results from the two Mock Drafts your GTPD is participating in at the "Hockey's Future" website, with some notes about the players available with each selection and a discussion of how we arrived at the player we chose.