Well. It was four months late, and held virtually, but the 2020 NHL Draft has finally wrapped up. There were plenty of surprises and a lot of picks that felt entirely out of place. I mean, don’t tell me you expected Yaroslav Askarov to go to Nashville.
But things are finally over. And after participating in six rounds, and reeling in seven picks, here’s all of the new names that the St. Louis Blues picked up.
Recapping the Blues Draft
First Round (26th Overall) — Jake Neighbours (LW)
2019-20 Stats (WHL): 64 Games Played, 23 Goals, 47 Assists, 70 Points
The Blues kicked off their draft with a bit of a surprising pick. A lot of names fell to the late first round but despite that, the Blues reached for a name out of left field: Jake Neighbours.
And, well, why shouldn’t they? Neighbours is the pinnacle build of a grinder. He’s Berube’s dream player, really. He has a level of aggression, physicality, and work ethic that was unmatched in this draft class. But what takes it to the next level is his skating. Neighbours’ speed and agility is absolutely terrific, effectively upgrading him from a simple-pest to a top-nine grinder. Neighbours doesn’t have the scoring upside of some of his contemporaries but his grit-and-grind is unprecedented this year. Neighbours should develop into a very reliable third-line grinder for the Blues, helping provide the same level of aggression that won the Blues the Cup two seasons ago.
Third Round (86th Overall) — Dylan Peterson (C)
2019-20 Stats (USDP): 45 Games Played, 8 Goals, 17 Assists, 25 Points
The Blues continued the search for a physical presence with their next pick in the draft. They missed out on the second round — thanks to the Marco Scandella trade — but still managed to grab a second-round talent.
Peterson fell into their lap. His selection is an absolute steal. The 6’4” centerman has sky-high potential. While his skating and shot need definite work, his strength, defense, and, well, size are all terrific attributes. He has the potential to develop into the next David Backes for the Blues; establishing a great net-front, playmaking presence. He’s Tage Thompson 2.0 but this time around the Blues spent a third-round pick, instead of a first-rounder.
For Peterson, the sky is the limit. If all goes well, he could develop into a serious second-line center for the Blues. While his scoring will likely always be a downside, the benefits he brings on defense and with his strength are going to be well worth the pick.
Third Round (88th Overall) — Leo Lööf (LD)
2019-20 Stats (SuperElit): 43 Games Played, 2 Goals, 13 Assists, 15 Points
Leo Lööf is a very interesting pick at 88th overall. The consensus was that he was far from the best defensive option and his left-handed shot adds to the log-jam of LD talent in St. Louis.
But digging into it, this might’ve been a 200-IQ pick. Lööf is not a high-scoring talent. He’s not a Norris-trophy winner. But he’s so, incredibly reliable. During the 2018-19 season, Lööf was named the best defenseman in Sweden’s U18 league, despite only scoring nine points in 16 games. But his well-rounded, reliable play clearly drew the eye of the league.
He’s a smooth-skating defenseman with great hands and good passing. He’s also got good size, standing at 6’1”. While he likely won’t ever reel in a top-line role, he will definitely develop into a reliable bototm-four option for St. Louis. A good comparable would be fellow Swedish-Blue Carl Gunnarsson. Both players play a smooth, reliable, two-way style of play. When the 33-year-old Gunnarsson finally hangs up his skates, Lööf will be there to fill his shoes. This was a good pick for the Blues simply because of how safe it is, even if Lööf’s ceiling is low.
Fourth Round (118th Overall) — Tanner Dickinson (C)
2019-20 Stats (OHL): 64 Games Played, 9 Goals, 31 Assists, 40 Points
The Blues deviated from drafting grit-and-grind forwards with their fourth-round pick. Dickinson is, in fact, quite the opposite. A lot of people aren’t fond of him at 118th overall but he could pan out as a total steal... maybe.
Dickinson didn’t play very much at all in the 2019-20 season. He was held back on a Soo Greyhounds roster that was very set-in on their lineup. So his opportunities to improve may not have been the same as some others.
But when Dickinson did play, he was explosive. His shot needs work, his passing could improve, and his defense might need a boost. But damn is he fast. He also has strong-enough hockey IQ and vision; enough to make him a worthwhile pick in the fourth round.
I was actually a fan of Dickinson headed into the 2019-20 season. Again, he’s a bullet down the ice. He needs to improve on a weak shot and weak passing but if he does, he could very quickly establish a very attractive skillset. With his speed and vision, he has the makings for a potential draft-boom. The 2020-21 season — if it’s played — will be a big one for Dickinson and one that Blues fans will definitely want to follow. It seems his career-expectations are still up in the air. Hopefully things will be answered over the course of this next campaign.
Fifth Round (149th Overall) — Matthew Kessel (RD)
2019-20 Stats (NCAA): 34 Games Played, 7 Goals, 4 Assists, 11 Points
The Blues fifth-round selection was a bit... weird. That feels like th best way to put it. Matt Kessel had all of the calling cards of a player that fights to earn an NHL contract after their college career. One of those “where did he come from??” kind of guys. In fact, Kessel wasn’t ranked on almost any 2020 draft rankings.
Kessel went entirely undrafted during the 2019 NHL Draft, after two-year USHL career that left a lot to be desired. He moved to UMass (University of Massachusetts) for the 2019-20 season and, well, not much changed. His scoring was very bare-bones, even for a freshman, ranking him 11th on his team.
But Kessel isn’t a lost cause. He’s a very sound defenseman. His play feels comforting in a way; just because of how well his fundamentals are. He’s also 6’3”, which should give a lot of good insight. With his size in mind, you probably won’t be surprised to hear me list the usuals... he’s got good defense and uses his stick well. He’s not afraid to throw around the body. And his passive-style lends itself to a lot of reliability, even if it comes in a bit of an underwhelming package.
Kessel will have to improve on his offense — and round out his play — if he wants to rival an NHL role but he could very well do just that.
Sixth Round (162nd Overall) — Will Cranley (G)
2019-20 Stats (OHL): 21 Games Played, 18 Wins, 0.894 Sv%
I’ll be honest, this pick feels strange. Cranley was the backup goalie for the Ottawa 67s this season, a team that was absolutely riddled with talent. My consensus “2020 Star Player”, Marco Rossi, led the 67s to success, with a great supporting cast of fellow first-rounder Jack Quinn and notable-sleeper Nikita Okhotyuk.
Needless to say, the team was good. Really good. They dominated the OHL, on track to a first-place spot that was nine points higher than any other team. With such an outpour of offense, the men in net, honestly, didn’t really matter.
And the weirdest part is that Cranley, a 6’4” 18-year-old, wasn’t even the starter. The team’s actual starter, Cedrick Andree, put up much better numbers (albeit in more games) and went undrafted.
But I’m picking at hairs. It’s clear what the Blues see in Cranley. He’s massive. It’s a size that’s shared by some of the Blues greatest goalie picks. The 6’7” Ben Bishop was selected by Larry Pleau in 2005. He’s now nearly a Vezina winner (he’ll get there one day). The modestly-sized, 6’2” Jordan Binnington was nabbed in 2011 by Doug Armstrong. He’s now a Cup winner. And the mighty 6’3” Joel Hofer was picked up in 2018, only to become one of the best goalies in Canadian juniors almost immediately after.
The Blues have success with drafting ginormous goalies. That’s something they’re undoubtedly trying to replicate here. Cranley is very unproven — something the Blues are undoubtedly aware of — but maybe he’ll follow in the shoes of fellow Blues goalies.
Seventh Round (193rd Overall) — Noah Beck (RD)
2019-20 Stats (USHL): 42 Games Played, 4 Goals, 23 Assists, 27 Points
Am... am I being punked? There’s no way the Blues dove for this explicit of a case of deja vu... right?
Alright, let’s break down Noah Beck I guess! He’s an overaged defenseman who was passed up entirely in the 2019 Draft. While promising, his USHL career left a lot to be desired. He’s now moving to the NCAA, where he’ll look to round out the weak ends of his play. Beck was again entirely unranked, giving off an impression that he wouldn’t become a focus of any NHL team until he joined the class of college free agents in two-to-three years.
Sound familiar? It should. This is another Matt Kessel! The two are even the same height, both standing at 6’3”. I was blown away by this pick when St. Louis made it. While I won’t say there were better options — I mean, it was the seventh round — it still feels so peculiar to have two players that are so similar.
But I suppose that increases the probability that one of them makes it... right? Beck has shown glimpses of really promising offense and was a focal point of the Fargo Force this season. The team wasn’t too gifted but Beck’s ability on the blue-line definitely helped things along. He needs to improve on his all-around game and find ways to make his game stand out but, for a seventh-round pick, this isn’t a bad pickup at all.
Alright! That’s my recap of the Blues 2020 Draft. Want more insight? Want to debate some of the picks? Think I’m just flat-out wrong? Let me know on Twitter @NHLFoley or down in the comments below! And let us know how you’d grade the Blues draft!
How Would You Grade the Blues 2020 Draft?
This poll is closed
A! They did great.
B. Improvements to be had but I’m happy!
C. I wish they would’ve done things differently.
D. I’m not a fan at all.
F. Oh no St. Louis. Oh no.