With the 29th overall pick in the 2018 NHL/SBNation Mock Draft, the St. Louis Blues are pleased to select, from the US National Team Development Program, defenseman Mattias Samuelsson.
Over the last decade or so, the Blues have been known for having drafted and developed a pretty decent stable of defense prospects. Four of the top five blueliners on the NHL roster – Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, and Vince Dunn – are Blues’ draftees. Beyond that, however, the stable of “D” prospects is something of a mixed bag.
Veteran and St. Louis native Chris Butler graduated out of “prospect” status a long time ago, and his best role in the organization as of now is to be a steadying veteran presence on the AHL affiliate. Two other defense prospects that spent time in the AHL this season, Petteri Lindbohm and Tommy Vannelli, are pending free agents as of July 1, and it’s really a coin flip as to whether or not either one is tendered a qualifying offer, much less a new contract.
Six years after being a first-round pick, the jury is still out on Jordan Schmaltz as an NHL defenseman. Jake Walman, who was very high on the depth chart at the start of the 2017-18 season, got the “mushroom treatment” from the Chicago Wolves, and because there was no room for him in San Antonio, the Blues ended up loaning him out to the Binghamton Devils at mid-season.
22-year-old Niko Mikkola has been outstanding in the Finnish Elite League for the last three seasons, appearing in the league championship series two years running. He was recently signed to his ELC by the Blues, but will likely need most, if not all, of a year in San Antonio to acclimate to North America. And big Dmitrii Sergeev has still not gotten so much as a sniff of the AHL in regular-season play, despite putting up a career year in Tulsa last season. 2017 pick Anton Andersson missed last season’s Development Camp with an injury, but is slated to make his St. Louis debut in this year’s camp.
The two major junior defensemen currently in the organization are a study in contrasts. Trenton Bourque is a steady defense-first blueliner who scored a grand total of one goal in his four-year OHL career, that coming in the second-to-last game of his junior career against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL playoffs. David Noel, on the other hand, has considerably more offensive upside, but his defensive game and physical game both suffered last year with a poor Val-d’Or club in the QMJHL.
So that, in a nutshell, is the state of the Blues’ organization at the defense position. And it is with an eye towards bolstering that position for the future that we selected Samuelsson with the Blues’ pick in this mock draft.
The “Future Considerations” 2017 NHL Draft Guide had Samuelsson ranked 30th overall in their early 2018 draft forecast, and had this to say about him:
“Samuelsson is a monster-sized blueliner who takes after his father, former NHL’er Kjell Samuelsson … not a flashy offensive guy by any means, but someone who just plays the game the right way with smarts and instincts … keeps his head up and always adapting to the play … has a decent stride that generates speed but could use more power and quicker feet … uses his vision and skilled puckhandling to distribute the puck with crisp, accurate passes … powerful snap shot with a quick release and accuracy … is physical and punishes his checks either along the wall of if they invade the crease … gets his frame into shooting lanes and blocks shots … great reach to defend, getting his stick on pucks, closing off lanes before the opposition can make an offensive play … has the size, strength and bloodlines to get a scout’s attention but also has two-way upside … has solid potential to develop into a two-way, top-four defender at the NHL level.“
The 2018 International Scouting Services Draft Guide confirms that analysis, ranking Samuelsson 31st overall and the third-best Stay-At-Home Defenseman available in this draft (behind consensus top-ten pick Noah Dobson and Swede Adam Ginning, both of whom were also on our radar). ISS Director of Scouting Dennis Macinnis notes that Samuelsson is a “(b)ig mobile two-way defender with more defensive upside at (the) next level,” and one with ”good hands and above average puck control (who) sees the ice and makes good decisions with the puck.”
Over the years, the Blues have made a habit of drafting college-bound players and players already in college, so as to have maximum time for these players to develop without having to be signed to pro contracts. Samuelsson fits that mold for the Blues, and now that he has decommitted from Michigan (as of January 2018), he will instead join his older brother Lukas at Western Michigan in the NCHC, the conference that has produced the last three National Champions.