Since 1980, the St. Louis Blues have made five draft selections in the top 10. They are venturing into uncharted waters with the 2023 NHL Draft, where they hold the 10th overall selection. They’ve never had a top 10 pick under the guidance of general manager (GM) Doug Armstrong.
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The Blues have had an interesting history of top-10 picks over the past 32 drafts. They made eight before 1980, but I cut the list down to five to keep it as recent as possible. Let’s look at how some of those selections worked out.
1986: Jocelyn Lemieux (10th Overall Pick)
After the New York Rangers drafted defenseman Brian Leetch with the ninth pick of the 1986 NHL Draft, the Blues selected forward Jocelyn Lemieux. He is the brother of four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux, who played nearly 600 games in the NHL. However, he only lasted two seasons and 76 games with the Blues. Before the 1988-89 season, they traded Lemieux to the Montreal Canadiens alongside Darrell May for Sergio Momesso and Vincent Riendeau. That trade worked out for the Blues. Lemieux played only 35 games for the Canadiens, while the Blues got 220 games out of Momesso and three solid seasons from Riendeau.
Overall, Lemieux played until 1998 before retiring with the then-Phoenix Coyotes. He went on two deep playoff runs with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a solid player but didn’t fully live up to the billing of a top-10 pick. His best skill was fighting. Other notable players drafted after Lemieux in the 1986 Draft include Scott Young, Craig Janney, Tom Fitzgerald, Adam Graves, and Teppo Numminen. All five of those players were drafted within the top 30.
1988: Rod Brind’Amour (9th Overall Pick)
The Blues drafted current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour in the 1988 Draft and traded him after two seasons in one of the worst trades in franchise history. He went to the Philadelphia Flyers and racked up 601 points in 633 games. After that, he was traded to the Hurricanes in 2000.
Brind’Amour continued his brilliance in Carolina. He played 694 games, won two Selke Trophies, and the Stanley Cup as team captain. He had a terrific career. He appeared in nearly 1,500 games across 20 seasons and scored 452 goals and 1,184 points. He was one of the best two-way forwards of his era, and he’s now become one of the best coaches in the NHL. In five seasons as the head coach in Carolina, he’s led them to the second round five times and the Eastern Conference Final twice.
The Blues made a mistake. Brind’Amour would have been a terrific piece for the franchise in the 1990s. He was one of the most successful players in a loaded 1988 Draft where phenomenal players such as Mike Modano, Mark Recchi, Teemu Selanne, Jeremy Roenick, and Alexander Mogilny were all taken. They missed the net with the decision to trade Brind’Amour.
1989: Jason Marshall (9th Overall Pick)
The Blues drafted defenseman Jason Marshall with the ninth overall pick in the 1989 Draft. This pick was a significant swing and a miss. He played a grand total of two games for the Blues, both of which came during the 1991-92 season. He went on to play 370 games across six and a half seasons for the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim before being traded to the Washington Capitals during the 2000-01 season.
In total, Marshall played 526 games for five different teams. He also appeared in 43 playoff games and went to the Western Conference Final with both the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks. Selected just after him in the 1989 Draft were Bobby Holik and Mike Sillinger. The Blues made a major mistake with this pick. It’s certainly their worst top-10 pick since 1980.
2006: Erik Johnson (1st Overall Pick)
The Blues have had a top-three pick just three times in franchise history. They selected Perry Turnbull second overall in the 1979 Draft and Wayne Babych third overall in the 1978 Draft. In the 2006 Draft, they had the first overall pick and grabbed defenseman Erik Johnson.
The majority of Johnson’s career has come with the Colorado Avalanche. However, he appeared in 203 games for the Blues from 2007-08 to 2010-11. In 2009-10, he had a career-high 39 points in 79 games at age 21 and matched that total in 80 games in 2013-14 with the Avalanche. He was part of a blockbuster trade to Colorado during the 2010-11 season alongside a 2011 first-round pick and forward Jay McClement for Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, and a 2011 second-round pick. This trade was solid for both sides, as Shattenkirk tallied 258 points in 425 games in St. Louis and was a solid part of the blue line for a long time.
Stewart was a quality power forward in parts of four seasons for the Blues. He scored 63 goals and 52 assists for 115 points in 211 games as a Blue. The second-round pick became Ty Rattie, who never reached his full potential in the NHL. As for the Avalanche, they still have Johnson. McClement played only two seasons for the Avalanche and the first-round pick became Duncan Siemens, who played in 20 NHL games. The Blues did well in that trade, but Johnson could’ve been a staple on the blue line if he stuck around. He’s had a solid NHL career, but not to the level of a first-overall pick.
2008: Alex Pietrangelo (4th Overall Pick)
The best has been saved for last. The Blues’ best top-10 pick since 1980 was easily defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. He’s one of the most important defensemen in franchise history. He played 10 full seasons with the Blues and became the team captain after David Backes left before the 2016-17 season. He racked up several accolades during his time with the team, including being the only captain to lift the Cup for the Blues.
In 758 games with the Blues, Pietrangelo tallied 109 goals and 341 assists for 450 points. He finished top five in Norris Trophy voting three times, including his final season in 2019-20. He is fifth all-time in games played for the Blues and has the most defensive point shares (DPS) in franchise history at 48.7. This stat estimates the number of points contributed by a player due to their defense. He is an elite two-way defenseman that the Blues miss dearly right now. He signed a seven-year deal for $61.6 million with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020. The no-movement clause that Vegas offered swayed him to leave St. Louis, as the Blues never give out no-movement clauses.
Pietrangelo has been terrific for Vegas. The Golden Knights are currently playing in the Stanley Cup Final and he’s been a big part of their run. While it was a sad ending for Pietrangelo and the Blues, he had a fantastic run in St. Louis. He should have his No. 27 retired in St. Louis once his career comes to a close, as no player has worn it with the Blues since he left.
The 2023 Draft is going to be important for the Blues. They have the 10th overall pick in a loaded draft class and should have every opportunity to get a high-upside prospect with that pick. They also have the flexibility and assets to trade into the top five. What they do on June 28 and 29 will be a crucial part of franchise history.