Despite the uncertainty surrounding the status of the 2020 NHL Draft, there’s still reason to discuss possible scenarios when the event takes place. Although we don’t what kind of pick the St. Louis Blues will have in the first round, we know it will be towards the bottom of the round.
We will act as if they have the 30th pick in the draft since they were ranked second in the league prior to the suspension. The latest first-round draftee for the club was forward Dominik Bokk at No. 25 overall in 2018, but he was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Justin Faulk trade.
Related: THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide
The club did not have their first-round pick last year as that was dealt in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. This year, there are plenty of opportunities to find a good player in the late portion of the first round – this is a very deep draft class.
Let’s find three forwards and three defensemen who could be available in the back end of the first round for the Blues.
1) Hendrix Lapierre (Center, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL)
Hendrix Lapierre projects to be towards the last portion of the first round, but don’t let that fool you. He has been considered to be one of the better centers in this deep class before this season in the QMJHL with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
One quote that has been thrown around by various scouts on Lapierre has been “may have the highest ceiling of any player projected to go in the first round. His concussion issues in the past likely have him fall later into the first round or later in the second, but worth a chance with the potential. He’s had three concussions in the last calendar year.
His hockey sense and playmaking qualities are excellent. He’s been a point per game player in the QMJHL, with 13 goals and 32 assists for 45 points in 48 games during the 2018-19 season. During 2019-20, he played 19 games and scored 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points before more concussions limited his playing time.
He’s projected to go 31st to the Anaheim Ducks in the recent THW first-round mock draft scenario, so he could certainly be there if the Blues pick at 30, and it’d be worth it with his potential upside.
2) Dawson Mercer (Right Wing, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL)
Dawson Mercer is another forward who is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick, with a chance of falling into the second round. And another player with some injury history in the QMJHL, to a lesser extent than Lapierre though.
He is known as a play-creating winger, who plays bigger than his 6-foot frame and is a high IQ player. He scored 30 goals in 68 games in 2018-19 with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL, and moved onto the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in 2019-20.
Before some injuries in 2019-20, he scored 6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 16 games. His knack for being a reliable and capable player on both the power play and penalty kill could make him a tremendous fit to play through the Blues’ system and into the NHL.
Getting a player like Mercer before the end of the first round would be great value, considering he’s certainly a player that could be taken much higher.
3) Jaromir Pytlik (Center, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Jaromir Pytlik is similar in stock to the other two above, as he could be a late first-round or early second-round pick. He projects to be a complementary player who likely would not drive his line, but could develop into a top-six center.
He produced at a fairly high level in the OHL this season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He produced 22 goals and 28 assists for 50 points in 56 games, developing further from the year prior. He seemingly fits in very well with the Greyhounds. (from ‘Hounds Pytlik: ‘I love it here’,’ Sault Star, 09/25/2019)
He has good size at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, his hands are underrated and he can skate. The pace he plays at is impressive as well, he could fit right into the Blues’ developmental system.
If the Blues drafted Pytlik, he would develop extremely well if he all goes as planned, and he could very likely fall into their lap at No. 30. It’s just a matter of them drafting him.
1) Ryan O’Rourke (LD, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
Ryan O’Rourke seems to be right on the edge of being a first or second-round pick in this draft. Getting him near the end of the first could prove to be a steal, as he’s a very underrated player in this class.
His key traits are his skating ability, his ability to move the puck, and his big-time shot. He’s also shown leadership as well, being the captain of the Greyhounds. The Blues could use another solid defenseman to continue the recent success of having incredible prospect depth on defense.
He’s also produced in the OHL, with 7 goals and 30 assists for 37 points in the 54 games this season with the Greyhounds. He would likely project to be a two-way defenseman at the next level, as he’s a hard defender with his puck skills.
It would absolutely be the right move for the Blues to take O’Rourke if he is there at the end of the round and they are looking to go defense.
2) Helge Grans (RD, Malmö Red Hawks, SuperElit)
Helge Grans is a player with good size at 6-foot-2 and one who is a smooth skater. His defense will need to improve, and his physical attributes could help him get to that next level.
He’s also risen up boards over the last calendar year. He could instantly become a big defensive prospect for the team and add to the long list of good right-handed defensemen that the Blues have brought up through their system.
He likes to take risks with the puck on both ends and is prone to making mistakes often with the puck, but more discipline and more development could help with that. His skating ability could absolutely make him worth taking a shot at.
His production could cause some concern, as he hasn’t produced much when playing against better competition in the SweHL, but it shouldn’t hold a team back too much.
With the physical tools and potential, I see him as a player worth taking a chance on at the end of the first round and I believe there is an excellent chance he will be there.
3) Braden Schneider (RD, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL)
Braden Schneider is unlikely to fall to 30, but a lot can happen between now and whenever the draft takes place. But if he is there, there is a lot to like, and great reasons to pick him.
Schneider looks like a good two-way player with good instincts and an ability to play in all three zones. Has shown the potential to be a top defenseman in this class. He can also play on the power play and penalty kill, while being effective, that being a tremendous thing to do in the NHL.
He had a pretty big season with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL in 2019-20. He scored 7 goals and 35 assists for 42 points in 60 games. His production level has been steady and rising during his three seasons in the WHL.
Overall, he can really defend and can be a tremendous two-way player if his offense develops, and that likely will determine where he gets taken in this draft. He would be the best value defensemen for the Blues out of these three – it would be a dream for him to fall to this spot.
The Blues should be set up to get a pretty good player with some potential at the back end of the first round. This is a very deep draft class, so if the club wants a defenseman, they can get a good one. If they wanted to go with a forward, they can find one there too.
The Blues have had some solid success recently with late first-round forward picks, Robert Thomas being the 20th pick in 2017. Klim Kostin projects to be a good player, but that remains to be seen.
Either way, the Blues are set up to have a good shot to get a good one in this year’s first round.