Blues 2023 First-Round Draft Targets: Brayden Yager

The St. Louis Blues will have a golden opportunity to add to their prospect pool at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft with three first-round picks at their disposal. The club will have two choices in the latter half of the first round and one that could land within the top 10, providing them with their highest-drafted prospect since 2008 when they selected defenseman Alex Pietrangelo fourth overall.

The Blues have several choices for a well-rounded, talented forward to pair alongside current forward prospects Zachary Bolduc, Jimmy Snuggerud, Zach Dean, and Dylan Peterson. However, general manager Doug Armstrong should target one in particular: 18-year-old Brayden Yager.

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Brayden Yager Scouting Report

Yager was born on Jan. 3, 2005, and is a center for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Born in Saskatoon, he is listed at 6 feet and 165 pounds. In 2021-22, he appeared in 24 games with the Warriors, scoring seven goals and 18 assists. The following season, his first full year with the Warriors, his offensive output increased substantially, scoring 34 goals and 25 assists in 63 games. In the 2022-23 campaign, he took his game to the next level, scoring 28 goals and 78 points in 67 regular-season games.

Brayden Yager Team Canada
Brayden Yager, Team Canada (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

At the time of writing, Yager has been ranked exclusively inside of the top 15 in the 2023 Draft. He was ranked as high as 10th overall by The Hockey News, and seventh overall by Recruit Scouting and TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Other rankings place him eighth (Sportsnet, Draft Prospects), 12th (Craig Button), 13th (McKeen’s Hockey), and 17th (Daily Faceoff).

Related: Brayden Yager – 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

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Where Yager Fits with the Blues

There is no such thing as having too much scoring depth. The Blues have many forward prospects who are capable of scoring goals and have continued to show it this season. Bolduc and Dean have shown their offensive capabilities throughout the regular season and into the playoffs, combining for 83 goals and 180 points in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) this season.

If all goes according to plan, they could become bonafide snipers in the NHL sooner than later. However, beyond these two forwards and Jimmy Snuggerud, there is a large dropoff in who can be relied upon to score goals on a nightly basis in the next few seasons.

Yager has a real opportunity to join an NHL squad’s top-six and boost a power-play unit at his peak level. His offensive abilities should allow him to contribute a consistent 20-30 goals and 60 points annually. With the right coaching and development to balance out his skating, zone entries, and his game without the puck, he could be a real complementary piece to any line and a scoring threat at every opportunity he is given.

Selecting Yager Has Risk But Provides Reward

Yager is a finisher and can score goals. While the Blues have always been known for their two-way style and their ability to play a full 200-foot game, taking a chance on a player who can score consistently could be beneficial for a club that struggles to find goals at times.

In a draft class that offers several high-end forward prospects to choose from, drafting a player like Yager could help the Blues in the long run. Should they unlock the key to developing his defensive game and development, the club could find they have multiple scoring threats coming up in the ranks. At worst, the 18-year-old could have a similar trajectory and play style to current NHLer Mike Hoffman. While some might recall the frustrations with his inability to play a consistently sound defensive game, many will still remember Hoffman’s threat of a shot. The Blues would do well to consider Yager come draft day.