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The 2009 NHL Draft: St. Louis Blues Preview June 21, 2009

Posted by bluesfan45 in Offseason.
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2009 Blues NHL Draft Preview
by Mark Massa (aka STL fan in IA)

Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are over, it’s time to focus on the upcoming NHL Draft which will take place on June 26 & 27 in Montreal.  While it will be years before we know just how good the 2009 draft will be, it has been heralded to have the potential to be a well above average draft for a few years now.  After three years of entering the draft with top 10 selections, the Blues currently hold the 17th overall selection in this draft after an exciting season which saw them climb from 15th in the Western Conference midway through the season to finish in 6th place by the end of the season and their first playoff berth since the lockout.  While the Blues are likely to miss out on the big dogs of this draft unless they are able to move up in the draft significantly (don’t count on it), there should still be many quality options available to them at the 17th position.  With how deep and wide open (insert joke here) this draft is, there is a whole slew of players who could easily be considered the best player available when it’s the Blues turn to pick.  For that reason, I am going to profile 20 players that very well could be the Blues first round pick. Undoubtedly, a few will be selected before the Blues even get a crack at them but most should be available in the general range the Blues are selecting.

To start off, lets discuss a few guys that will likely be gone by the time the 17th pick comes along but could be available to the Blues if they fall a few spots past where they are projected to go or if the Blues trade up a few spots to get them followed by 17 others that could very well be the Blues first round selection.

Scott Glennie – Right Wing/Center, 6’1”, 180 lbs, Brandon, WHL – Glennie is a member of one of the most dangerous lines in junior hockey along with Wheat Kings teammates Brayden Schenn and Matthew Calvert..  Schenn gets most of the attention but Glennie actually outpaced Schenn in terms of points until he was knocked out with a broken elbow.  Glennie returned for the playoffs to post 18 pts in 12 games.  Glennie isn’t as well known for his toughness as Schenn is but he is a very good shooter, a deft play-maker, an above average skater, has top notch hockey sense, has a high compete level, above average stick handling ability and while I wouldn’t describe him as a power forward, his is willing to fight his way into the dirty areas to score goals and make plays.  Like a lot of 18 year olds, he still has quite a bit of filling out yet to do but of all of the players that are at least somewhat likely for the Blues to get, Glennie would be my pick.

John Moore – Defense, 6’2”, 189 lbs, Chicago, USHL – John Moore is another young man who’s seen his draft stock consistently rise throughout the season.  While there’s a good chance he will already be gone by the time it’s the Blues’ turn to pick, if he’s still available, he should be at or near the top of the list as the best player available.  The first thing one notices when watching Moore play is his skating ability.  He is very fluid, mobile, and if he is caught out of position, he can regain his position with his speed.  He has a good shot from the point and seems to be adapting well to the position of defense as he is a converted forward although he does need to improve his play in the defensive zone and I would like to see him increase his physicality.  Still, he has the potential to develop into a top pairing defenseman in the NHL.  He will either play college hockey for Colorado College or join the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers next season.  While I am not quite as high on Moore as some others, I do like his potential quite a bit and he would be a very good pick for the Blues in my opinion.

Zack Kassian – Right Wing, 6’3”, 210 lbs, Peterborough, OHL – Kassian is a prototypical power forward.  While his draft stock has been rising as of late and it is likely he is already taken when the 17th pick comes around, it is possible he’s still on the board given the depth of this draft.  Kassian is a very intense player who is not only very physical but one of the best fighters in the OHL.  Zack had 63 points in 61 games to go along with his 136 penalty minutes for the Petes this season but had a rather disappointing playoffs.  He has an intriguing combo of skill and size.  He is a good stickhandler, good playmaker, average skater, and is not afraid to go right through people to get to the net.  Like all prospects, he still has a lot to prove but the future is bright for Kassian.  He had a respectable 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games at the U-18’s.  Kassian would be a good selection for the Blues if available.

Jacob Josefson – Center, 6’0”, 187 lbs, Djurgarden, SEL – Josefson is a highly skilled two-way center who doesn’t shy away from the physical aspect of the game.  He has always been a high level scorer in juniors and this season in the SEL, he put up 5 goals and 11 assists in 50 games for Djurgarden.  After a disappointing U-20 tournament in which he was battling the flu, he added 7 points in 6 games at the U-18 Championships.  He has a very high hockey IQ which allows him to read the ice well.  He is more of a playmaker than sniper, is an above average skater and is an good stickhandler.   Josefson might not have the top end offensive skills as a few of the players likely to be selected at the top of this draft, but he projects to be a good scoring line player who is also very responsible defensively.  He’s very smart, creative and plays a mature game.  His game reminds me quite a bit of Lars Eller although I would say he’s a little ahead of where Eller was at his age.  Josefson needs to fill out a little bit but he would be a fine selection for the Blues to add to their stable of top notch prospects.

David Rundblad – Defense, 6’2”, 190 lbs, Skelleftea, SEL – Rundblad is a highly skilled offensive defenseman.  After putting up 15 points in 10 games for Skelleftea’s junior team early on this season, he was promoted to the top club and put up 10 points, all assists, in 45 games.  This is pretty impressive for someone who didn’t even turn 18 until partway through the season.  He is a good skater, moves the puck well, is a good stick handler, and has very high hockey IQ.  He joins the rush quite often which sometimes leads to him getting caught in too deep when play turns the other direction.  He will need to shore up his defensive game to avoid being a power play specialist but that shouldn’t be a problem.  He is a right-handed shot which is coveted at the defensive position and while he does need to improve his physical game, he is improving all aspects of his game at a good pace.  I would have absolutely no problem with the Blues selecting Rundblad.

Tim Erixon – Defense, 6’2”, 190 lbs, Skelleftea, SEL – Perhaps considered a bit of an “off the board” pick at 17 but I could definitely see him being a guy Blues scouting director Jarmo Kekeleinen and head European scout Ville Siren would like.   The son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, Tim is a very solid two-way defenseman.  While not as offensively flashy as Skelleftea teammate David Rundblad, he does posses good offensive skills while also being solid defensively.  At the recent U-18 World Championships, he led all defensemen with 9 pts in 6 games (3 goals, 6 assists) and was named to the tournament all-star team.   Erixon has top notch hockey sense, moves the puck out of the defensive zone well, likes to join the rush, and is very mobile with good size.  I like his overall game a little more than Rundblad’s and see him developing into a good 2nd pairing NHL defenseman in a few years.

Chris Kreider – Left Wing/Center, 6’2”, 201 lbs, Andover Prep HS – What Kreider possess is the rare combination of skill, size and speed.  What he lacks is quality of competition.   While scouts have marveled at his skills, it’s hard to get a true read on him as he’s playing New England Prep high school hockey instead of Junior hockey.  The main question concerning Kreider is, will his skills translate to higher levels?  Some scouts have claimed Kreider is the fastest skater in the draft ahead the likes of Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, John Moore and Matt Duchene.  At 6’2”, 201 lbs, he also possesses good size and will only get bigger.  He has a rocket of a wrist/snap shot, good stick handling abilities, excellent hockey sense and even though he is primarily known for his scoring, he’s also a good playmaker as well.  Kreider is committed to attend Boston College.  As he had to repeat his sophomore year of schooling upon transferring from Masconomet HS to Andover Prep to play a higher level of hockey, he originally wasn’t going to begin his college career until the 2010-11 season but is now trying to take a few extra classes this summer to obtain a degree from Masconomet so that he can start at Boston College in the fall.  Whether Masconomet will grant Kreider his HS diploma is yet to be determined.  Don’t be confused though, the kid’s no dummy.  He was recruited by Harvard, Boston University and a few other highly prestigious institutions.   He performed very well at the NHL Combine in the physical portion while the general notion is that he also performed well in his interviews.  While it will likely be 2-3 seasons before he is ready to turn pro and he does present a risk given his level of competition, he could very well end up being one of the better players drafted in 2009.  With a lot of young forwards already on the team and in the pipeline, the Blues have the luxury to take a guy who won’t contribute at the NHL level right away while also having the luxury of taking more of a homerun type of pick (high risk/high reward) instead of a safer type of pick (low risk/medium reward) if they so choose.  Kreider would be a very intriguing choice for the Blues.

Peter Holland – Center, 6’2”, 185 lbs, Guelph, OHL – Holland is another player with power forward potential.   While he’s not nearly as physical as feller OHLer Zack Kassian, he does have the size and ability to develop into an NHL power forward.  He scored at a point per game pace this season while displaying good skating, a nice shot, good hands and good defensive ability.  What Holland lacks is consistency.  Oftentimes, his effort seemed to be lacking so there are some concerns about his compete level which culminated with a poor playoff performance which resulted in Guelph getting swept in the first round of the OHL playoffs.  While this is something many other draftees have overcome it is something to watch out for.   While not much is reported regarding the interview portion of the NHL Combine, there were hints that Holland overall did not interview well and displayed an attitude.  While he does have some red flags to be wary of, he does have a lot of skill.  I remember quite a few being concerned with Getzlaf’s attitude in 2003 which allowed him to fall all the way to 19th overall and the Ducks have been thankful for that ever since.  Could Holland be the same way?  Possibly, but you can never know and I don’t think Holland’s as talented as Getzlaf was 6 years ago.  He would be a decent but riskier pick for the Blues.

Carter Ashton – Left/Right Wing, 6’3”, 205 lbs, Lethbridge, WHL – Ashton’s a big boy and has a hockey pedigree as his father Brent played almost 1000 NHL games.  Carter is considered to have a little more offensive skill than his dad did.  While he does fit the power forward role he would improve his cause if he ran people over a little more.  His skating has improved but isn’t anything above average.   Ashton has good overall skills, fairly high hockey IQ, is decent defensively and has a nose for the net.  He scored 30 goals but only 20 assists in 70 games for Lethbridge this season.  Some wonder just how much his offense will translate to the pro game.   He has a good amount of potential but like a lot of power forward types, he’ll need a good amount of time to develop.  He would be a decent pick for the Blues depending on who all else is also available.

Louis Leblanc – Center, 6’0”, 178 lbs, Omaha, USHL – Leblanc is a classic two-way center from Quebec who chose the USHL to maintain his NCAA eligibility.  He scored 28 goals and 31 assists in 58 games for the Lancers while nabbing USHL rookie of the year honors while also leading the league in +/- at +33.  Leblanc is a good stickhandler while also showing adept skills at protecting the puck with his body.  He makes plays at top speed which is oftentimes what separates those that make it in the NHL from those that don’t.  His speed is decent and while he does need to add bulk, he does ok with the physical part of the game.  His potential is that of a good second liner or a very good third liner.  With his overall set of skills and work ethic, he’s a pretty safe bet to be an NHLer.  He’ll be playing college hockey at Harvard next season and would be a good, safe pick for the Blues.

Landon Ferraro – Center/Right Wing, 6’0”, 170 lbs, Red Deer, WHL – Ferraro is another name one should recognize as his father, Ray Ferraro, played 17 years in the NHL.  The younger Ferraro scored 55 points in 68 games for a very week Red Deer Rebels team this season.  Ferraro’s main attribute is his two-way play.  He’s pretty responsible defensively while also being dangerous offensively.  Ferraro is a very good skater which was displayed when he won the fastest skater competition at the CHL Prospects Game.  In addition to that, he has good hockey sense, good stick handling skills, a very strong work ethic and good character.  The main question on him is where he’ll top as an NHLer.  I see him as a 2nd/3rd line tweener but with the potential to be more than that.  Many say has possesses untapped offensive skill and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a breakout season next year.   He’s not the biggest and needs to fill out more but that’s expected for a 17 year old.   While perhaps not the player with the highest long-term potential, he would be a safe pick for the Blues at 17.

Calvin de Haan – Defense, 6’0”, 170 lbs, Oshawa, OHL – de Haan in an intriguing prospect.  He was an OHL rookie this season and put up an impressive 63 points in 68 games as a defenseman for the bottom dwelling Oshawa Generals.  Many attributed his offensive success to teammate John Tavares but when Tavares was traded to London, de Haan’s play improved even more which is all the more impressive since he had to take on more responsibility as defenseman Michael Del Zotto was also a part of the package going to London.  He really needs to hit the weight room but he has very high potential.  He has a good point shot, is a smooth and agile skater, moves the puck out of the defensive zone well and has top notch hockey sense.   He’s not very big and scouts have concerns about his size but as long as he can add the necessary muscle, his skills and excellent hockey sense should make him a dangerous NHLer.  I would not be disappointed in the least if the Blues selected de Haan as I really like his potential.

Stefan Elliott – Defense, 6’1”, 180 lbs, Saskatoon, WHL – Elliott is an offensive defenseman known for his puck moving ability and speed.  What a lot of observers question though is his defensive game.  Right now, he is pretty one-dimensional in that he will need to shore up his defensive game quite a bit before hitting the NHL.  Like most draft eligible kids, he also needs to add bulk and strength.   One thing he has is a lot of talent.  He’s a quality skater, makes good outlet passes, can rush the puck when needed, is a good stickhandler, has above average hockey sense and is a good PP QB.  I am a little concerned about his defensive game but that’s something that can be taught as long as he’s willing to learn.  What can’t be taught are his instincts and head for the game.  I think he’s a little underrated and while he’ll likely need a couple years before being NHL ready, he could be a surprise pick for the Blues at 17.

Ethan Werek – Center, 6’1”, 190 lbs, Kingston, OHL – Werek is a guy that really came on as the season progressed.  After getting adjusted in his first OHL season and after Doug Gilmour took over behind the Kingston bench, Werek’s play improved quite a bit, finishing the season with 32 goals and 32 assists in 66 games.  He’s tenacious, aggressive on the puck, back-checks well, has excellent on-ice awareness, is a good stick handler, and has a very high hockey IQ as he always seems to be in the right position to make a play.  His skating isn’t the best but he skates hard – shows up for every shift.  After his OHL season, Werek had a good showing for Canada at the U-18 tournament with 6 pts in 6 games.  A year ago he committed to go to Boston University but changed his mind and went the OHL route instead.  He doesn’t get as much hype as a lot of other guys but I think he’s very underrated and could develop into a good NHLer – probably a 2nd line winger, and with his good intangibles like his effort and tenacity, I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Blues took him at 17th overall.

Jeremy Morin – Left Wing, 6’1”, 189 lbs, USNTDP U-18 Team – Morin does one thing very well, which is score goals.  He’s arguably the second best sniper in this draft behind John Tavares which shows as he led the U-18 team in goals (33) and points (59) in 55 games.  Morin has a very hard and accurate shot, handles the puck well, is fairly good defensively, and displays pretty good hockey sense.  His skating is average and he needs to get more consistent.  I’ve seen him take a few too many shifts off.  When he’s on though, he’s very good.  Morin was one of four players suspended from the U-18 team for 3 games.  Apparently the group of four had a couple female friends in their hotel room which is against team rules.  My understanding of the story is that it was not that big of a deal.  Morin had a successful U-18’s for the gold medal winning Americans with 6 goals and 4 assists in 7 games.  He will be joining the Kitchener Rangers next season.  As long as the Blues are comfortable with Morin’s character after doing the necessary homework on him, he would be a decent pick for them.  He has some red flags to his game that might hold him back but he could also be quite the homerun pick as well.

Kyle Palmieri – Right Wing/Center, 5’10”, 191 lbs, USNTDP U-18 Team – Palmieri is another player that has very good all-around offensive skills.  He has a good shot, is a very good skater, is very tenacious, never gives up on plays, has good hockey sense, keeps good positioning and handles the puck well.  Palmieri is a little undersized but is solid and strong on his skates with a very strong lower body.  Like a lot of his teammates, he also had problems conforming to team rules and was dismissed from the NTDP in February.  No official explanation has been given but word is that Palmieri was made an example of as he didn’t rat out his teammates concerning underage drinking.  The general consensus is that most are not concerned with Palmieri’s character and that he learned from the experience.  Instead of returning home to New Jersey after his dismissal, he finished his year of high school in Ann Arbour so that he could be around his teammates even though he wasn’t playing on the team anymore.  He will start his college career with Notre Dame next season.  I don’t see Palmieri as having the most top end potential of players that are likely to be available to the Blues in the first round but he’s a good overall player, would be a relatively safe selection and I see him developing into a good 2nd line winger in the NHL in a few years.

Drew Shore – Center, 6’3”, 190 lbs, USNTDP U-18 Team – Shore a player with a good mix of skill and toughness.  He’s a big kid although he needs to add some more weight.  He’s tough to play against, plays a good physical game, is a good skater, is tenacious on the forecheck, and finishes his checks well.  His offensive skills are good but not eye-popping.  Most of his points are generated from his physical play and speed.  He also needs to work on his consistency a bit.  Shore has the potential to be a power forward in the NHL but I could also see his offense not translating enough to the point that I could see him also being a tough 3rd line type who frustrates the opposing team with his physical play while still contributing a respectable amount of offense.  He would not be a bad pick for the Blues at 17 but I like a few guys better.  He had a good U-18 tournament with 9 points in 7 games (2 goals) and will play his college hockey at the University of Denver.

Simon Despres – Defense, 6’4”, 205 lbs, Saint John, QMJHL – Despres is an individual whose stock is all over the map.  Some have him pegged to go in the top 15 of the draft while others see him as falling to the second round.  After a disappointing U-18 tournament, there’s a good chance he’ll be available at 17th overall.  Whether he would be a good selection there is up for debate.   Despres possesses a lot of size, is a good skater, has good on ice vision but he needs to improve his shot and consistency.  After many impressive streaks of play, he oftentimes left scouts wanting more.  If he is able to fulfill his untapped potential, he has the ability to be a top pairing NHL defenseman but his wide range of play is baffling.

Zach Budish – Right Wing, 6’2.5”, 229 lbs, Edina HS – Budish could be considered the wild card of wild cards.  Not only is he a high school player which makes it hard enough to judge him, but he also missed his entire senior season with a torn ACL he sustained playing high school football.  Prior to the winter hockey season in Minnesota, the very best players typically play in the Minnesota HS Elite League in the fall.  Kreider played in this league for Team South West in conjunction to playing football and in 15 games before his ACL injury, he had 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points.   Quite simply, he’s an absolute force physically and understandably, is hard to knock off the puck.  He isn’t the fastest skater but has a rocket of a shot.  His knee appears to be fully healed as he was one of the better performers at the NHL Combine a few weeks ago.  NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee remarked that Budish reminds him of Keith Tkachuk and David Backes at the same age.  Budish will take his game to the University of Minnesota next season.  While there is a lot to like about Busish, how comfortable teams are with him given his lack of playing time this season is a mystery.  He would be a surprise pick at 17.

Charles-Oliver Roussel – Defense, 6’1”, 200 lbs, Shawinigan, QMJHL – Roussel had a very solid year for Shawinigan with 44 points in 68 games as a defenseman with an even more impressive playoff campaign with 12 points in 9 games.  He displays good overall skills with his passing and decision making being the most noticeable.  I would like to see him be a little more consistent in the defensive zone though.  He’s another right-handed shot defenseman while also likely being the youngest player in the draft.  If he had been born 3 days later, he wouldn’t be draft eligible until next year.  Given that he is quite a bit younger than a lot of the other kids eligible for this draft and how he improved throughout the year, I could see him ultimately surpassing quite a few players likely to be drafted ahead of him a few years down the road.  He would definitely be a surprise pick at 17 but he has a lot of upside.  Ultimately though, it is likely he is passed over by the Blues in the first round but is then no longer available once their second round pick comes along.

There you have it.  If the Blues first round selection isn’t one of these twenty guys then it’s going to be a rather off the board pick.  As mentioned before, this is one of the deeper drafts in a number of years so there will be many quality players around well into the second round.  After the first round is over, I will give some analysis on the Blues pick as well as forecast the Blues’ options for the second round and beyond.  Not to get too far ahead of myself but some names to keep in mind for the second round are: Tomas Tatar, Ben Hanowski, Anton Lander, Erik Haula, Eric Gelinas, Alex Chiasson, Jerry D’Amigo, Seth Helgeson, Richard Panik and Marcus Johansson among others.

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