If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be the St. Louis Blues. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down the Blues’ major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
Of the new Central Division teams we’ve gone over so far, there’s no question St. Louis’ 2013 draft class has been the weakest.
With their first selection coming just one pick after the Wild took Gustaf Olofsson, the St. Louis Blues would select Minnesota native Thomas Vannelli with the 47th overall pick in the draft. A good-sized right-shot blue liner at 6’2″, he’ll need to add more weight to his 165-pound frame. Vannelli spent last season between his high school club in Minnetonka and Team USA of the USHL, leading all Minnetonka defensemen in scoring with eight goals and 23 assists for 31 points in 25 games. He would also add a goal and an assist in 14 games in the USHL. In addition, he scored two goals and an assist for three points in seven games as the United States would earn the silver medal in the 2013 U-18 WJC. Vannelli is set to kickoff his collegiate career with the University of Minnesota this fall.
Taken just 10 picks later, the Blues would add left winger William Carrier to the fold. He may not be a first rounder, but there’s no question the Blues drafted a quality talent when they selected him 57th overall. At 6’2″ 196-pounds, Carrier fits the mold of NHL power forward almost perfectly. In three seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL, Carrier has registered 51 goals and 73 assists for 124 points and a negative-52 rating in 161 games. Last season, as an Eagles assistant captain, he would score 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points and a negative-14 rating in 34 games. It’s easy to see why he was lauded as a top-30 prospect heading into the draft. A quality, quality pick by the Blues.
Minus a third rounder, St. Louis’ next pick would come in the form of Prince George Cougars (WHL) left winger Zachary Pochiro in round four at 112th overall. A hometown kid, Pochiro was the Cougars’ third-leading scorer last season, notching 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points while leading the club in penalty minutes with 105 as a WHL rookie, albeit at the older age of 19.
With their final pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Blues would select Finnish right-shot defenseman Santeri Saari. At 6’2″ 191-pounds, Saari possesses a good frame and has already spent some time playing against men in Finland’s SM-Liiga. In two games last season with Jokerit, he notched a plus-1 rating, but spent the majority of his time with Jokerit’s U-20 team in the Junior A SM-Liiga, scoring five goals and adding 18 assists for 23 points and a negative-5 rating in 46 games. As a sixth round pick, there’s nothing that really stands out about him, either good or bad, and will be a long-term project if he pans out at all.
A typical draft class is considered to be a success if two picks develop into legitimate NHLers. Fortunately for St. Louis, their two second round selections look to be a couple of very talented individuals that have the potential to make an impact when they do eventually turn pro. You can bet the Blues brass is hoping that’s the case, because the depth of this draft class goes to kiddie-pool shallow after them.