The St. Louis Blues are out of the playoffs and — ignoring the drama of Alex Pietrangelo — can now turn their attention towards the 2020 NHL Draft. It’s a loaded pool, with plenty of talent throughout the first round.
This is great news for a Blues team that is bound to have a fairly late pick. If the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins, the Blues draft 26th overall. If Boston wins the series, the Blues draft 27th.
Those are fairly late picks; the latest the Blues have started their draft since 2015, when they didn’t have a first rounder. Luckily, this draft boasts a lot of talent. Here’s three names that could be snagged with the Blues first-round pick this year.
Options for the Blues in This Year’s Draft
There’s a bit of work to be done before finding the options. Teams obviously don’t want to crowd their prospect pool with guys that all play the same position. Luckily, that’s not really an issue for St. Louis. They only have two left-wings, five centers, five right-wings, and six players that are officially listed under more than one forward position. So there’s not much in the way of worry when drafting a forward.
There is a bit of an issue with defensemen, though. The Blues have 10 prospects that play defense. Of them, only one plays right-defense... That’s a bit of a bog. If the Blues are going to draft a D, he needs to be right-handed to try and even out the pool.
The Blues also shouldn’t draft a goalie. Colten Ellis, Vadim Zherenko, and Joel Hofer are all performing terrifically in their respective leagues and all have NHL upside. Bringing in another goalie would only complicate things. Luckily, there aren’t any options at goalie in the late-first round.
Justin Barron (RD)
Justin Barron is a big right-defenseman with potency in all three ends of the ice. He boasts terrific skating, great passing, and a shut-down style that’s hard to find in every blue-liner.
But all three of these stats are so strong thanks to just how smart Barron is on the ice. Few defenseman in this year’s draft boast the level of hockey IQ that Barron has. It’s a gift that grants his amazing positional-awareness, making him a formidable force for opposing forwards, as well as great offensive-awareness, making him a much-watch when he’s on the attack.
Barron isn’t going to put up jaw-dropping numbers. He’s not a lights-out scorer. But his ability may be the most well-rounded of any D in this draft, other than Jake Sanderson. Barron is great at remaining smart in the defensive zone and shutting down plays, then using the spark caused by a turnover to rush the opposite end and set up his teammates for scoring chances.
Earlier this year, Barron was diagnosed with a blood clot that forced him to miss nearly two months of the already shortened season. This has caused many scouts to take the ‘under’ on him, simply because he hasn’t been seen as much as contemporaries like Braden Schneider. But Barron’s smarts and all-around play are truly something to admire. If the Blues can manage to reel him in, they’re netting a great defensive talent, with the mind and humbleness to grow perfectly under higher-level coaching. He’s not likely to be the star that Alex Pietrangelo or Vince Dunn are/will be but Barron’s ability will bring a very trustworthy presence to any team’s defense corp.
Rodion Amirov (LW/RW)
Rodion Amirov has had a firm grip on the eyes of the hockey world for most of the year thanks to his flashy hands and great agility. He’s another absolute hockey-genius, like Barron, but he uses his smarts to a different affect. While Barron uses quick wit to keep him in position and spark great passes, Amirov’s forward position allows him much more freedom. With highlight-reel hands and amazing agility/edgework that makes him look weightless at times, Amirov is able to use his great hockey knowledge to find ways to completely ruin opposing defenses.
His hands, speed, and agility make him the favorite of any matchup and his eye for the game helps him get into favorable ones more often than not. He’s also very fast, allowing him to brute force his way through the opposition if it comes to that.
One of the best scouts I know, Ben Kerr, compared Amirov’s style of play to Max Pacioretty and it’s a perfect comparison. Pacioretty is so noticeably smart and can control the offensive-end with so much ease. This is exactly what Amirov brings to the table. While not a selfish player, he can take control of the entire situation in the O-zone and find the perfect series of events that’ll result in him scoring. It’s fun to watch. Of course, his great smarts also make him a formidable force in the defensive end — at least, as much as a winger can be.
Amirov is a very smart player with an amazing, offensively-focused skillset to boot. He is a bit scrawny, though, standing at 6’0” and only weighing somewhere between 160 and 170 pounds. But as long as he can bulk up, Amirov is going to be a force in the league. If he falls to the late-first round — an unlikely but not unrealistic possibility — he would be an amazing addition to the Blues lineup; adding the same smart, flashy style of play that Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou already bring.
Jan Mysak (C)
Picking a third option wasn’t easy. There are so many talents to choose between that could fall to the Blues and each of them have their own special talent. Hendrix Lapierre is maybe the fastest player in this year’s draft. Mavrik Bourque’s absolute love of scoring goals is super-fun to watch. Brendan Brisson’s utter dominance of his league was mind-boggling.
But after thinking about it, there’s one name that just feels like a Blues draft pick: Jan Mysak.
Mysak stands out from the speedy, undersized, skilled forwards that make up this year’s draft (and, well, modern hockey). Unlike them, Mysak isn’t an elite skater. He’s not even a particularly great one. He can skate, obviously, but doesn’t possess the speed or agility to make it a noticeable trait at all.
He also isn’t the lights-out scorer that some players in this year’s draft are. He’s scored well — over a point-per-game in the OHL this year and nine points in 26 games in the Czech Republic’s professional league — but his point totals aren’t going to raise any eyebrows.
But that isn’t to say Mysak isn’t special. He forgoes flashy offense or dazzling speed in favor of incredible two-way talent. In fact, Mysak is probably the best true-two-way center in this year’s draft. He has terrific passing and an incredibly hard shot, two pieces he makes good use of in the offensive end: acting as a terrific playmaker when things get set up.
It’s the defensive end where Mysak stands out, though. He is just so incredibly disruptive. He has such a unique knack for breaking up plays with aggressive, smart defending. It’s a skill that’s hard to come by in new-age players but one that Mysak can rest his hat on. His defense is impeccable.
This amazing defense allows Mysak to spend most of his game in transition, moving the puck from his own end to the offensive zone. While his lack of speed is definitely noticeable as he pushes for breakaways or tries to split the defense, he thrives when he has teammates helping him out. Mysak is confident with the puck and does a great job of setting up those around him.
In terms of strictly style of play (not potential), Mysak feels a lot like prime-Jonathan Toews. He’s a defense-first centerman that can shutdown the opposition but when the puck moves up the ice fans can be damn sure he’s the one leading it. He’s reliable, confident, and an all-around great lead-by-example type of player. It’s the exact player St. Louis has awed for years: an undoubtedly reliable two-way centerman with top-nine upside. Mysak feels like a perfect fit for the Blues. If they were going to take a forward with their first-round pick, Mysak might be the best choice.