The St. Louis Blues had six picks in the 2022 NHL Draft and the tall task of building out a prospect pool that, with the promotion of Scotty Perunovich and soon-to-be promotion of Jake Neighbours, was admittedly barren. They started the draft with the tremendous value-pick of Jimmy Snuggerud, which the GameTime team broke down in depth here. But did the rest of their draft live up to the great vibe they started with?
Grading the Blues 2022 Draft
First Round (23rd Overall): Jimmy Snuggerud, RW/LW
U.S. National U18 Team (NTDP) - 59 Games, 24 Goals, 39 Assists, 63 Points
Personal Ranking: 33rd Overall
As discussed in previous GameTime articles, the Snuggerud pick is a clear trend-setter for the Blues. It’s still fair to wish they’d embrace the speedy, skillful style that Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Scott Perunovich are bringing to the team, rather than sticking to their schtick of seeking gritty, big-bodied forwards. But Snuggerud exists in both worlds. He’s poised and can score with ease but is also a fearless grinder and not afraid to scrap. While he isn’t a Kyrou-esque player, he’ll be a tremendous support to the Blues’ speedier talents. This is a good, good pick — fitting a need for the Blues versus aiming for ‘best-player-available’ — but the inherent weakness of the late-First Round this year keeps this pick form being a solid A+.
Pick Grade: A-
Who I Would Have Picked: Jimmy Snuggerud (RW/LW 23rd Overall, St. Louis Blues)
Third Round (73rd Overall): Aleksanteri Kaskimäki, RW/LW
HIFK U20 (U20 SM-Sarja) - 31 Games, 19 Goals, 21 Assists, 40 Points
Personal Ranking: 76th Overall
The Blues continued a solid First Round selection with a solid Third Round selection, making the best use of the pick they acquired in the Ville Husso trade. Kaskimäki is a good, sturdy winger with... just... just a ripper of a shot. Kaskimäki is a sniper first-and-foremost. He sits back in his skating and does a great job of loading a ton of power behind his shots. In some ways, his play reminds me of a young, lite-version of Jesse Puljujarvi: playing a fairly linear, shot-first game that needs to be propped up by his teammates.
Puljujarvi has turned into a star because of his ability to become more dynamic and physical in his play. I don’t see Kaskimäki growing in the same way. But even without that growth, his ability as a scorer is enough to provide him second-line upside. There is a rather likely chance that Kaskimäki turns into the scoring punch behind someone like Thomas’ playmaking ability.
Like with Snuggerud, Kaskimäki was taken a few spots before I had him ranked. But his selection fills a clear hole for the Blues. This is another fabulous selection.
Pick Grade: A+
Who I Would Have Picked: Aleksanteri Kaskimäki (RW/LW, 73rd Overall, St. Louis Blues)
Third Round (88th Overall): Michael Buchinger, LD
Guelph Storm (OHL) - 63 Games, 5 Goals, 39 Assists, 44 Points
Personal Ranking: 65th Overall
At this point, I had to check my broadcast. The Blues simply do not draft like this. Michael Buchinger is yet another tremendous value-pick that fills a need for the Blues! While the team is absolutely not in the market for left-defenseman, Buchinger is a project that will take time to reach his potential. But he does it all right. Buchinger is a fabulous skater that makes crisp, clean passes on the back of a strong ability to read the ice. And while his defensive ability is an area he could grow in, he took big strides in learning to use his size and reach to defend the rush.
I want to make my love for Buchinger clear... he has top-four upside. To get there, he’ll need to add a clear layer of size, strength, and physicality to his game. He simply can’t dominate pro hockey in his current form. I think he’ll also need to learn to have more confidence in taking risks and trusting his talent as an offensive asset. Growing in these two areas will require time in an NHL weightroom and a year or two of dominant play in the OHL. But there’s serious reason for Blues fans to be excited about Buchinger’s upside, even if his floor is lower. For a Blues team that could use a boom-or-bust prospect, this is another great selection.
Pick Grade: A
Who I Would Have Picked: Michael Buchinger (LD, 88th Overall, St. Louis Blues)
While there are certainly better options that went after Buchinger, his potential is a big need for the Blues system. Another option here could have been Nick Moldenhauer (95th Overall, Toronto Maple Leafs) who compares closely to Brandon Saad and Jimmy Snuggerud.
Fourth Round (120th Overall): Arseni Koromyslov, LD
SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL) - 42 Games, 4 Goals, 15 Assists, 19 Points
Personal Ranking: 122nd Overall
Here is where the wheels started falling off of the wagon. Koromyslov is a fine talent and a player I ranked as worthy of a selection in this range. But he became the seventh left-defenseman in the Blues system at the time of his selection, not counting the four (Krug, Leddy, Scandella, Mikkola) that suited up in the NHL this year.
That’s simply asset mismanagement. The Blues do not need more LD and Koromyslov isn’t the player worth ignoring the depth chart for. He struggled immensely with consistency all season long. When Koromyslov is hot, he’s a tremendous talent, using fine skating and high-IQ passes to command his team from the bottom-up. He’s mature and poised in a manner that would earn him a pro-hockey nod sooner rather than later. But when Koromyslov isn’t in one of his hot spells, he genuinely looks like a different player, making bone-headed decisions in the defensive zone, hesitating to clear pucks, and struggling to connect on easy passes.
Watching Koromyslov’s season was incredibly jarring because he was such a toss-up every game. This led to many scouts taking the ‘under’ on him, making even my 122nd overall ranking look rich. I’ll say this on Koromyslov: there are plenty of NHL players who had to fight to find their consistency after their draft year. If he hits, he’s undeniably an NHL talent. That’s all you can ask for in the fourth round. But the fact that the Blues are so comfortable reaching on questionable left defenseman — the one position they don’t need — scares me.
Koromyslov is also affiliated with SKA, Russia’s army team. This may make bringing him to North America any time soon a notable challenge. Just another downer to what was a strange selection.
Pick Grade: C-
Who I Would Have Picked: Ryan Healey (RD, 121st Overall, Minnesota Wild)
The very next pick was an insanely better option for the Blues. Healey is a flashy, fast, smooth-skating defenseman who has no fear in skating the puck coast-to-coast. He makes opponents look silly, his teammates look faster, and would have been a gorgeous addition to the Thomas, Kyrou, and Perunovich-style of Blues hockey. Plus, he’s a RD, an actual need for St. Louis! Taking Koromyslov over him could look silly in years to come.
Fifth Round (152nd Overall): Marc-Andre Gaudet, LD
Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) - 68 Games, 13 Goals, 25 Assists, 38 Points
Personal Ranking: N/R
I think I could quicker answer the question of, “What position did the Blues draft in the fifth round?” than I could the question of “What color is the sky?”
Clearly, they opted for another LD! Because why not?! Gaudet became the eighth LD in the Blues depth chart, outside of the NHL, at the time of his selection. Unlike Buchinger, Gaudet doesn’t scream “tremendous potential” and unlike Koromyslov, he’s not at least a familiar name. Hearing Gaudet’s name called was a serious surprise for a lot of public sector scouts, myself included.
That’s not to say he’s bad. He’s... fine. Gaudet is yet another big-bodied defenseman capable of holding his own in the defensive end, on the back of a physical, personal style of play. He’s a better skater than some give him credit for and uses it to good effect, drifting out of his position’s limitations to make plays and pressure opponents.
Marc-Andre Gaudet going in the 2022 NHL Draft isn’t inherently bad. 152nd is quite rich for a player in need of some definite poise but sometimes reaches work out. But Marc-Andre Gaudet going to the St. Louis Blues is, well... inappropriate. The team has 7 other LD fighting for spots and plenty of defensemen who play his style of hockey. This pick is classic St. Louis, in the worst ways.
Pick Grade: D
Who I Would Have Picked: Sandis Vilmanis (LW/RW, 157th Overall, Florida Panthers)
Sandis Vilmanis somehow became one of the most polarizing players, with a lot of public sector scouts ranking him quite high. I think the late-fifth, early-sixth was an appropriate range for him. He’s a riskier pick but, if things pan out, he could develop into a nice middle-six scorer, pushing the ceiling on the third-line. He’d be a good boost to the Blues forward depth.
Sixth Round (184th Overall) - Landon Sim, RW
London Knights (OHL) - 64 Games, 12 Goals, 9 Assists, 21 Points
Personal Ranking: N/R
I took a nap after this selection. It was nice. And well-needed because I truly couldn’t wrap my head around this decision.
There’s always a level of respect that needs to be provided to every draft pick, even if the ones I don’t agree with. Landon Sim’s dreams came true on Friday and I hope, for many reasons, that he puts it all together for the Blues. But I was genuinely shocked to see him hear his name called in the Draft, as were many.
Sim has the physical talent, showing off good skating, a nice jump into puck battles and sweet-enough stickhandling. But there’s a lack of intuition in Sim’s game that really keeps him from operating smoothly in a system. He fails to jump into opportunity or take advantage of discrepancies in the defense. He’s not an overt liability but without a spark to his game, Sim fails to really bolster a line in any way.
I see what the Blues are going for with this pick. They see a raw package and are taking a chance on being able to instill the hockey IQ. It’s a gamble but a reasonable one to take in the Sixth Round... I guess. Still, with some of the names left on the board, it’s not one I’m happy the Blues took.
Pick Grade: D-
Who I Would Have Taken: Jeremy Wilmer (LW/RW, Undrafted)
My rule for the ‘Who I Would Have Taken’ section is that I have to pick from names that were taken between the team’s picks. If we want to stick to that rule, Servác Petrovský (LW/C, 185th Overall, Minnnesota Wild), Tyson Dyck (C, 206th Overall, Ottawa Senators), and Brandon Lisowsky (LW, 218th Overall, Toronto Maple Leafs) were all better picks.
But Wilmer is chief among them all. He’s a late-August, 2003 birthday, meaning he just missed first-year draft eligibility. And he had... a historic season. Wilmer scored 98 points in 60 USHL games, a pace and total that ranks top-three all-time in the USHL. Had he been born a few weeks later, he would have set the record for first-year draft eligibles in scoring, beating out Tomas Vanek.
Wilmer is a skillful, undersized winger who uses flashy, in-your-face play to dominate opponents. He’s consistently dominant and is going to take said dominance to Boston University next season. Missing out on him is going to end up as a tough pill to swallow.
Overall Draft Grade: C
The Blues did tremendous early in the draft, taking three high-end picks... selections I would have made. But they went back to their old ways to end things, failing with their latter three selections. The final two choices, most notably, simply don’t fit into what the Blues need to do. This is a team that’s still has a lot to learn about building a prospect pool. Let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite them.
What would you grade the Blues 2022 Draft?
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