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NHL Entry Draft 2018: “St. Louis Game Time” SILVER SEVEN

Our annual listing of seven prospects whom we think could be selected by the Blues at the NHL Entry Draft.

There won’t be just a Lone Star deep in the heart of Texas this weekend...

With less than 60 hours to go until the 2018 NHL Entry Draft gets under way in Dallas, Your “Game Time” Prospect Department is pleased to present the final version for this year of our annual “Silver Seven” list.

For those unfamiliar with this terminology, Your GTPD has for the last several drafts, put together a list of seven prospects that we consider the most likely candidates to hear their names called by the Blues on draft day.

For this year’s Draft, we analyzed the results of ten different mock drafts and came up with average rankings for each of 49 different players mentioned at least once in that group of mocks. We assigned a value from 1 to 31 to each player ranked in each draft, based on where each player was ranked in each draft, then added the total and divided by ten to get the player’s average ranking across all ten drafts. If a player was not ranked in a particular mock, he was given a value of 32 for that draft.

These are the ten mock drafts that we used to arrive at our 2018 “Silver Seven” list:

The Results

Without further ado then, here is the “Silver Seven” for the 2018 Draft, based on the average ranking for all players in the ten mock drafts cited above:

The Breakdown

By Position: Three centers, three defensemen, one left wing. None of the defensemen are right-hand shots, which is an area of the system in which the Blues are lacking at present. Doug Armstrong has overseen eight drafts as GM of the Blues, and has used his first pick in five of those drafts to select a forward, three times to select a defenseman.

By Nation of Origin: Three Canadians, one American, one Russian, one Swede, one Frenchman (Groulx) who grew up in Canada. In eight drafts as the GM of the Blues, Doug Armstrong has had seven first-round picks, and has drafted three Canadians (Jaden Schwartz 2010, Robbie Fabbri 2014, Robert Thomas 2017), two Americans (Jordan Schmaltz 2012, Tage Thompson 2016), and two Russians (Vladimir Tarasenko 2010, Klim Kostin 2017). Both Russians were selected with the second of two first-round picks owned by the Blues that year.

In the three Armstrong drafts where the Blues did not have a first-round pick, their first selection of the draft came in Round Two, and they chose two Canadians (Ty Rattie 2011, Vince Dunn 2015) and an American (Tommy Vannelli 2013) with those picks.

By League: Two from the Ontario League, two from the Quebec League, one from the Western League, one from the Allsvenskan in Sweden, and one from the US National Team Development Program. Armstrong has used his seven first-round picks to select two players from the OHL (Fabbri, Thomas), two from the United States League on their way to college (Schwartz, Schmaltz), one from the USNTDP also on his way to college (Thompson), and two from the KHL (Tarasenko, Kostin).

The Skinny

Here’s a brief profile of each of the players on our “Silver Seven” this year. All scouting reports are extracted from the 2018 NHL Draft “Black Book.”

Alexander Alexeyev:

Alexander Alexeyev is a big Russian defender who finished his second full season in North America with the Red Deer Rebels. In the last two seasons, Alexeyev has dealt with significant injuries, including a season ending knee injury at the end of 2016-17 ... Has a unique combination of strength and skill. His physical tools are strong, including a big frame and great strength on his skates. He has a powerful stride, and can move up ice with ease. In tight spaces, he is nimble and elusive and his feet have become quicker and more efficient over his two years in Red Deer ... Extremely tough to knock off the puck and excels in puck battles because of his strong frame.

Ty Dellandrea:

At the U18’s in April, he showed what he could do with more talent around him. The most important aspect of his performance was that he didn’t rely on his teammates for inflated production or was a passenger but instead he showed the ability to shut-down top offensive-talent on other teams while also driving his line in the offensive-zone ... has some good attributes that make him one of the more dangerous offensive-players in this class. One of his better attributes is his shot. He’s got one of the best release points in this class, it comes off his stick extremely quickly while also generating a lot velocity. Furthermore, there are few “tells” in his body mechanics before his release which makes it difficult for goalies to pick up if he’s attempting a blind-pass or firing the puck on net ... Capable of making difficult passes at a high-rate; vision compliments his passing ability, as he consistently tracks back-door options before passing the puck and is aware of where his teammates are attempting to position themselves in advance ... not just offensively-gifted; shows defensive awareness on the ice … Skating ability allows him to backcheck efficiently, help cover his defenseman when they get overwhelmed and he’s got some length to disrupt passes.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx:

Groulx was the top pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft out of the Gatineau midget program. His father coached in the QMJHL for 13 years with Gatineau, and is now coaching Syracuse in the AHL. The younger Groulx, as a coach’s son, really understands the game well, taking pride in all the little details. Groulx can play both at center and on the wing; he has good size and can play a gritty game in front of the net and along the boards. He’s not a flashy offensive forward, but possesses a big heavy shot. In midget, he was the go-to guy for his team, whereas in junior, he has become the more all-around guy that does a bit of everything. His skating has limited him as far his offensive upside goes; he lacks that explosive stride to be a more effective offensive player who takes advantage of scoring opportunities. Groulx is the kind of player who can play different roles on a line, and this is what he did with Halifax this season. He can score, set up guys, play a physical game and make smart plays all over the ice. A very smart player who, if he makes it at the NHL level, would likely be featured as a role player.

Jared McIsaac:

McIsaac was the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft, and has given the Mooseheads every reason to be happy about that pick. McIsaac had a slow start to the season, but finished the season among the defensive scoring leaders in the QMJHL. McIsaac has great combination of size and mobility, which is essential in today’s NHL. He moves well, he has good footwork and a power stride that helps him create distance when rushing the puck. He can, at times, go end-to-end with the puck. He has the ability to do it, but over the last two seasons, he has learned to play a simpler game with the puck. He has become a more effective two-way defenseman this year, compared to the offensive defenseman that he was coming out of midget. In the offensive zone, he sees the ice well and has a heavy shot from the point. There’s still some improvement that could be done with his decision-making, which is a bit inconsistent as well, but if he improves those parts of his game he could be even better. McIsaac has good size and is not overly physical in his zone, but does just enough to keep opposing forwards honest when they come to his side of the ice. He’s strong and has good impact when he hits players along the boards.

Ryan McLeod:

McLeod is a playmaking centre with strong skating abilities ... Utilizes his fluid skating abilities and good speed to create offensively. He shows an ability to recognize open ice an exploit it. While McLeod is able to make controlled zone entries, way too often he refuses to take the puck to the net; instead he will stay wide and circle the net ... Needs to become more assertive with his shot, often passing up shots in prime scoring areas to make a pass ... Shows good puck handling abilities and a creativity to his game that elevates his playmaking skills. With good vision and passing abilities McLeod can elevate the play of those around him, however he needs to recognize when to be selfish and utilize his shot. It is deceptively strong and comes off a good release ... McLeod will need to elevate his defensive zone play as he can chase defensively and lose contain of his check … Played wing at times throughout the season and was often more effective in the defensive zone as a winger with limited defensive responsibilities ... Possesses good strength, but needs to be more assertive with his frame as he can lose board/puck battles or be pushed from possession.

Jacob Olofsson:

Olofsson is a physically mature, multi-faceted center, with a lot of tools at his disposal. He’s got a pro-frame, soft-hands which he can use effortlessly to go around players in one-on-one situations and can skate. We have seen him keep up with some of the faster players in this draft class when aggressively backchecking and he’s good at transitioning the puck from the neutral zone over the offensive-end. He does some of his best work when applying pressure on his opponents in the neutral zone, turning pucks over and then making efficient passing plays to move the puck back up the ice. He’s got good hockey sense which allows him to read plays at a fast rate and he doesn’t need a lot of time to make the smart and safe or the highly-skilled play. He’s a swiss-army knife type of player in the sense that you can place him along the half-wall on the powerplay where he’s a capable puck distributor, put him on the penalty-kill where he can recognize passing options and intercept the puck consistently, and you can also put him on a forechecking line or on a scoring line where he can compliment some higher-end players ... Olofsson has a couple of pressing issues he needs to address in order to become an effective NHL player. Specifically, in regards to his inability to be proactive instead of reactive in the offensive-end. He’s a player who doesn’t seem to understand just how good he can be if he was willing to be more selfish and recognize what he’s capable of doing with the puck on his stick. He can play at a high-pace in spurts and has shown that he does have a decent motor but he needs to become more assertive both with and without the puck in order to become a regular center at the NHL level.

Mattias Samuelsson:

Mattias Samuelsson was a defensive force for the USNTDP, who played top-four minutes and in all situations while putting up 31 points in 53 games. He’s slated to play for Western Michigan University in the 2018-2019 season ... A physical specimen who uses his frame and weight effectively to drain opposing forwards while also delivering big hits, which made him difficult to play against. He’s a competitive player who tries not to give his opponents an inch. This made him effective in boxing-out players as well as weighing heavy against them along the boards. He’s got a good blend of anticipation and bite to his game; the end result is a defenseman who has a high degree of defensive presence when he steps onto the ice. He’s an intelligent defender, who recognizes shooting lanes in advance and rarely throws himself out of position when looking for a big hit. It’s probably expected for Samuelsson to be average with his first few steps considering his size, he’s a young kid who’s still developing into his frame. However, he does have a powerful base and has shown decent straight-line speed both with and without the puck. Another important aspect of his game defensively is his composure. Due to this, he’s aware of his physical abilities and doesn’t panic with the puck during aggressive forechecking sequences ... In the offensive-end, he doesn’t play a high-tempo or dynamic game at the line, rarely using little more than a shot fake to re-adjust his shooting lanes and doesn’t look overly comfortable when attempting to cut through traffic. That being said, his offensive awareness is good, making timely pinches to help support his teammates or generate a scoring chance for himself. Both his wrist-shot and slapshot generate power and he has an above average release ... A cerebral, physically imposing, two-way defenseman who has a high-floor but not as high an offensive ceiling as some of the other defenders expected to go in the first round. However, if he can continue to improve his first few steps and round out his offensive-game. We see Samuelsson as a player who can develop into a defenseman who can log a lot of minutes for an NHL team.