One of my favorite days of the year (other than the trade deadline, free agency, and Christmas) is draft day. This draft has potential to be a great day not only with the young players being drafted, but because names like Rick Nash, Jordan Staal, Keith Yandle, Ryan Suter, and many other names are being thrown out there in trade talks. Talks of the Edmonton Oilers swapping their 1st round pick are heating up along with many other teams interested in moving up as well. The St. Louis Blues and Doug Armstrong really have no need to move up in the draft or to make any big trades right now. So the Blues pick 25th this year and who they choose may come down to whose best available, but I will share a few players who I believe the Blues should take if available.
St. Louis Blues pick defenseman Brady Skjei of USNTDP Juniors (USHL) – With prospects on forward such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Ty Rattie, Jaden Schwartz, and Philip McRae, the Blues do not have any promising defensive prospects other than Ian Cole. The Blues take the 18 year old smooth skating American 2-way defenseman who had a solid year picking up 12 points in 24 games while being at a +5. Skjei has the ability to make that first pass out of the zone, and good speed for being 6’3 and 200lbs. While he can rush the puck up the ice well, he does not possess a bomb shot like some other d-men have. He doesn’t play great in his zone, but he is very solid along the boards and in front of his own net. He also could learn to be more physical. Skjei instantly becomes the Blues top defensive prospect.
St. Louis Blues pick center Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls (OHL) – This ones a stretch, but possible. While the Blues may have tons of young talent at forward, they lack a little at center. At 18 years old, Gaunce plays a girtty 2-way style of play and collected a respectable 68 points in 68 games. While he isn’t very flashy, he does play a responsible game at both ends which would be great in Ken Hitchcock’s system. His skating isn’t at the NHL level yet, but a couple years of development and the kid may have a shot to fill that #3 center role.
St. Louis Blues pick defenesman Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes (OHL) – Despite a shoulder injury which cut his season short, Koekkoek (like Gaunce) can be taken as early as #15 or slip to a high 2nd round pick. Some worry about his shoulder, but he looks great and was able to do the activities at the combine. This 6’3 200 lb defenseman was logging huge minutes per game and was relied on heavily at times. He plays physical, but also plays smart. He has shown good skating ability and his passing is crisp. Koekkoek may be the later pick that turns into something special, and he can slip down to 25th if teams decide to play it safe with other picks. Even though he plays a big game, he can sometimes get lost in his own zone by following players or getting out of position.