The St. Louis Blues will draft 23rd overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft from the Bell Centre in Montreal. This marks the 14th straight draft where the Blues aren’t picking in the top 10 of the first round. The last time they chose in the top 10 was 2008, when they took eventual captain Alex Pietrangelo with the fourth pick.
Over the last six drafts, the Blues have had four picks in the 20s of the first round; they took Tage Thompson, Robert Thomas, Dominik Bokk, and Jake Neighbours with those picks. They’ve developed Thomas into a star, and it looks like Neighbours could be notable as well. With Thompson, they traded him to the Buffalo Sabres in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, and he’s thrived in his time in Buffalo. Bokk hasn’t made a mark in the NHL yet but could be a solid player if his time comes for the Carolina Hurricanes, as he was the return in the Justin Faulk trade.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
There should be ample opportunity for the Blues to get a good prospect with the 23rd pick. This specific draft features some high-end talent in the middle of the first round, with many rising prospects as it gets closer. As has been learned with general manager Doug Armstrong, he usually doesn’t tip his picks and surprises people more often than not.
1. Jagger Firkus, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Central Scouting (CS) Ranking: 12th (North America) / THW Ranking: 28th (Baracchini)
Not only does Jagger Firkus have a fantastic name, but he’s also a pretty good hockey player as well. Rising up the draft boards, he has virtually cemented himself as a first-round pick in this draft. He went from being a solid winger in the Western Hockey League (WHL) to being an elite one with his 2021-22 season of brilliance.
As is the case with most prospects, Firkus still has room to grow when it comes to consistency and skating. He had 80 points in 66 games for the Warriors this season, but it seemed like he could have had more than that. His effort appears to be there, which is common for a player that breaks out and rises up draft boards. His ceiling as a playmaker isn’t all that high, but his ability to be creative and dependable should help him in his career.
Here’s the best quote to sum up his game, “Firkus can be an effective top-six forward in the NHL and will be a valued asset on special teams. With his shot release and range, he can score goals will ease and snag top shelf snipes. He does a great job of creating dangerous chances in the slot. With that said, you are getting quality production from him. His play in the defensive zone is not as robust as it is in the offensive zone, but if you pair him with the right defensive-minded forwards, he can be rather effective at the next level.” – Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
It certainly seems like Firkus could be a great fit with the Blues. As Tessler said, pairing him with good defensive forwards can be effective. The Blues don’t ever lack in the department of quality defensive forwards, so it seems like that would benefit Firkus. It seems like the range for Firkus is anywhere from the Blues’ pick at 23 to the end of the first round, so they can get him if they want.
2. Seamus Casey, D, USA U18 (USHL)
CS Ranking: 29th (NA) / THW Ranking: 27th (Baracchini)
The Blues already have a few undersized defensemen in the organization, but it wouldn’t hurt to add Seamus Casey to the mix. At 5-foot-9 and 162 pounds, he’s the same height as Torey Krug but nearly weighs 30 pounds less. He’s also smaller than Scott Perunovich, who the Blues drafted out of Minnesota-Duluth in the 2018 draft. He’s committed to play at the University of Michigan for the upcoming season, and that’s a great thing considering the prospects developed there recently.
One of the best parts of Casey’s game is quarterbacking the power play, which the Blues already have with Perunovich and Krug. The biggest key to his game that meshes with the Blues’ organizational philosophy is the ability to play quality defense, which he has shown as well. One thing that the Blues did with a lot more success in 2021-22 was breakout passes and transition play. Both of those things are a major feature of Casey’s game, so the fit is there for sure.
I love [Casey’s] defensive game, but if he can unlock the potential in his offensive approach and utilize the high-end skills he has: he goes from projecting as a middle-pair defenseman to being a top-pair defenseman with PP1 potential.” – Austin Garrett, Smaht Scouting
This could be a gem of a selection with the 23rd pick for the Blues, as Casey has tons of upside as a two-way defenseman. He’s been one of the best defensemen for the U.S. National U17 and U18 teams over the last two seasons, scoring 69 points in 94 games. He’ll likely be the best defenseman available if he is there for the Blues, and some mock drafts indicate that as well.
3. Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
CS Ranking: 11th (NA) / THW Ranking: 22nd (Baracchini)
There’s a legitimate chance that Isaac Howard is off the board when the Blues pick with the 23rd selection. But if he is available, it could make a lot of sense, even after the last two seasons of taking forwards in the first round. As the Blues look for the next goal-scoring wingers for their prospect pool, Howard fits the bill quite well.
He is the prototypical undersized winger in this version of the NHL, with an ability to be a creative scorer and playmaker. His draft stock could continue to rise and put him out of reach for the Blues at 23, but if he is there, he’s a must-pick prospect. He has a ton of tools on the offensive side of the puck, and he is not afraid to get into the corners to battle for the puck.
“Isaac Howard is one of my favorite prospects in the 2022 class. He’s a pure goalscoring talent on the wing that can deceive goalies with his release, but he’s shown that he can be more of a playmaker early on this season, making him a multi-tooled offensive weapon.” – Austin Broad, FC Hockey
If the Blues can develop his transition and rush skills properly, as our prospect profile indicates, his ceiling is very high. He’d be a good fit to eventually develop into a top-line winger with an elite passer like Thomas, and that is exciting to think about. He will play the 2022-23 season at Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA, making him the fourth Blues prospect that is playing college hockey in the U.S. Either way, Howard’s ceiling is high, and he could be a steal with the 23rd pick.
A few other prospects that are worthy of mentioning would be defensemen Denton Mateychuk and Lian Bischel, as well as forwards Luca Del Bel Belluz and Jimmy Snuggerud. With Mateychuk, he’s an elite offensive defenseman and can skate with anybody. Bischel is a big defender, standing at 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds. He can be a quality defensive defenseman sooner rather than later but must work on his skills with the puck.
For Del Bel Belluz, his elite season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has made his draft stock rise a great deal. He has great hands and has turned into a quality stickhandler and will likely go anywhere from the 20th pick to the early portion of the second round. Snuggerud could be a reach for the Blues at 23, but he boasts a great shot and nose for the net. He comes from a hockey family and could be in the NHL within the next three seasons.
The Blues should have a ton of quality options with the 23rd pick. Over the past two seasons, they took Neighbours and Zachary Bolduc, and those two look like good picks right now. They seem to develop forwards better than a lot of NHL franchises, so perhaps that’s the route they go with the 23rd pick.
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Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.