Doug Armstrong and the St. Louis Blues made an uncharacteristically big splash on Day One of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, making two big trades and acquiring a potential No. 1 center from Philly in Brayden Schenn while retaining two first-round picks.
On Day Two of the Draft, the other Armstrong — Director of Amateur Scouting Bill — had his turn to shine, and he delivered. Armstrong and the Blues’ scouting team scoured the globe to add a total of six high-quality prospects to the Blues’ organization this weekend.
Blues add speed, skill up front on Day One
With the first pick on Friday night, at 20th overall, the Blues tapped playmaking center Robert Thomas from the OHL’s London Knights.
A center who plays a strong two-way game, Thomas has excellent puck protection skills for a smaller player; he is able to carry the puck and make plays in traffic. The Aurora, Ontario native is aggressive on the forecheck and is not afraid to initiate physical contact against bigger players.
Among the three major independent scouting services that Your GTPD customarily subscribes to — Future Considerations, Hockey Prospect dot com, and International Scouting Services — Thomas was ranked slightly below where the Blues ended up selecting him. FC ranked him 33rd, while HP had him at 23rd and ISS at 21st.
ISS ranked Thomas the fifth-best defensive forward available in this draft, and gave him Very Good ratings in Skating, Puck Skills, Defensive Play, Competitiveness, and Hockey Sense. Derek Stepan, recently dealt b the New York Rangers to the Arizona Coyotes, is listed by ISS as the NHL player to whom Thomas best compares.
The Blues had the 27th overall selection in the first round, but dealt it to Philadelphia as part of the Schenn trade. They weren’t done with drafting in the first round, however, or done with trades either.
In a stunning move, Ryan Reaves and the Blues’ selection at 51st overall in the second round were shipped to Pittsburgh in exchange for prospect center Oskar Lundqvist and the last pick in the first round at 31st overall. The Blues used that pick to snag big Russian forward Klim Kostin.
Kostin, who had been ranked the top prospect in Europe by NHL Central Scouting all season long despite missing the second half of the year with a shoulder injury, was actually the player that Your GTPD had identified as being the Blues’ likely pick at 20th overall in this article posted last week on Prospect Sunday:
Able to play either center or left wing, Kostin is fast, agile, and strong on his skates, and has the ability to create time and space for himself on the ice. He spent time at the KHL level, in the Russian second league, and the Russian major junior league this past season.
The 2016-17 season for Kostin began with his selection at first overall by the Kootenay Ice of the WHL in the CHL Import Draft, to whom he declined to report, opting to spend his draft year at home in Russia. He had strong showings in early-season tournaments like the Ivan Hlinka Memorial and World Junior A Challenge, and skated for Team Russia against the top players from the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL in the annual CIBC Canada-Russia Series.
Kostin was ranked 14th by Future Considerations, 19th by Hockey Prospect dot com, and 16th overall by ISS. ISS rated him the second-best Power Forward and fourth-best Defensive Forward available in this draft, and gave him Very Good ratings in the categories of Size/Strength, Skating, Puck Skills, Shot, Offensive Play, Physical Play, Competitiveness, and Hockey Sense.
Another Russian, and three blueliners on Day Two
With their second-round pick gone in the Reaves trade, the Blues would have to wait a while to make their first selection on Day Two. When they finally did so, the wait was worth it. With the 113th overall selection in the draft, the Blues were able to land hard-working RW Alexei Toropchenko from the Dynamo Balashikha system in Russia.
Unlike the players selected in front of him by the Blues, Toropchenko was not highly regarded by the independent scouting services. Future Considerations ranked him 220th, and ISS had him at 105th overall. Hockey Prospect dot com had him at 54th overall, probably due to a strong move upwards in the Central Scouting rankings from Midterm to Final.
Toropchenko is a player with a strong will to win puck battles, and he has a solid work ethic. He will drive the net, and plays a good checking game as well.
In this link...
...you will find almost eight minutes of video of Toropchenko doing his thing for HC MVD. There is also a brief clip of Toropchenko and his Russian teammates vs. Team USA at the U18 World Juniors. In the clip, Toropchenko gets a partial breakaway shorthanded and, as he crosses the USA blueline, draws three defenders over to him, freeing the trailing Pavel Koltygin (drafted 176th overall by Nashville) who takes the pass from Toropchenko in stride to score an easy goal.
At 130th overall, the Blues snagged the first of three defensemen to close out their 2017 Draft, tapping the QMJHL to acquire David Noël of the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
Noël was acquired by Val-d’Or from Chicoutimi mid-season, and his ice time and production went up after the move. He spent time on the first power play unit for Val-d’Or, mainly because of his big, booming shot. He makes good and quick decisions with the puck, makes a good first/outlet pass, and has a decent transition game
On the defensive side, he has good gap control and an active stick, and finishes his checks despite not being a primarily physical player. He will have to build strength in order to reach his potential as a pro.
Noël finished the year ranked 136th in North America by Central Scouting after not being ranked all year long; Future Considerations named him as a “sleeper” while ranking him 99th overall, and HP dot com had him ranked 183rd while ISS had him almost 100 places higher at 87th overall.
At 175th overall, the Blues went back to the OHL for a defenseman, this time selecting big Trenton Bourque from the Owen Sound Attack.
Bourque was not ranked by any of the independent scouting services, and the only scouting report available on him comes from Bill Armstrong’s post-draft interview with Fox Sports Midwest:
“He’s someone we’ve always liked. He’s been in the OHL, went through the draft last year (with Sudbury) and was with Owen Sound this year. He really can skate; that’s one thing you’ll notice with most of the players we drafted this year, they’ve really got the ability to skate. He’s probably going to be the fastest skater in (Development) Camp. He can really push the pace from the back side, he has that elite NHL skating quality, and we’re excited to get him where we did.”
The Blues finished off their 2017 NHL Entry Draft by tabbing big blueliner Anton Andersson from the Lulea system in Sweden.
Like Bourque, Andersson was not ranked by any of the independent scouting services, but here’s Armstrong’s take on him:
“He’s a big man. He’s someone that is, as I would say, raw. Here’s a guy that is six-foot-four, he can skate, he plays an aggressive style of game, and he tries to make a difference on both sides of the puck. He’s got to learn to settle down, and he’s a ways away. He’s a very raw player, but there’s some good qualities with his size and his athletic ability, and the aggressiveness that he plays the game with. We’re excited about him.”
Welcome to the Blues’ organization, gentlemen... and we look forward to seeing all of you in Development Camp next week.