The St. Louis Blues have been slowly turning their notoriously sporadic drafting around over the past 15 years, and the results are continuing to speak for themselves. From draftees like TJ Oshie (2005) and David Backes (2003), to Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko (2010) the Blues have shown they can find great talent that will become key pieces to their puzzle. Now with such exciting young talent filling the Prospects and Training Camps the future certainly looks bright for the storied club, still in search of their first Stanley Cup title.
Prospects to Keep an Eye On
Most Blues faithful know that Ivan Barbashev is about a year away from cracking the NHL roster, and that Robby Fabbri should push for the squad this season. They also know that Colton Parayko and Jordan Schmaltz are both nearing NHL-readiness and should solidify the back-end for years to come. However, there are many other young guns who have impressed the coaching staff and fans alike, and could become key players for the Blues in as early as two years’ time.
Zach Pochiro: This hometown power forward is getting used to the pro ranks quickly, and could be an excellent two-way grinder in as little as a years’ time. He racked up five total points in this year’s Prospects Tournament (2G, 3A, plus-3) which tied Robby Fabbri for the overall team lead. He will likely make the transition to the Wolves this season, and should be a regular contributor there. Pochiro has good vision and great heart so if he can work on his discipline he should help balance the scoring if/when he dons the Note on his chest.
Thomas Vannelli: Here’s a defenseman who seems to echo the skill sets of Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, a great sign for the young star. He has huge offensive upside, and also sees the ice very well (he was a plus-5 at the Prospects Tournament), however he needs to continue to add mass onto his slender frame to become the stalwart D-man he should be in the future. Vannelli is going to be a great addition to the Wolves back-end and should push for a roster spot in a couple of years’ time.
CJ Yakimowicz: CJ is a true-blue. He plays a physical game and relies on his balance and vision to make smart decisions. He has great potential to become a future grinder that can still make things happen on occasion like Steve Ott, but has more offensive prowess overall (he had 1G, 1A, and was a plus-4 in the Prospects Tournament). He does need to work on the defensive side of his game before he can be realistically considered for the NHL squad though, but is definitely on track to help the Note maintain their physical presence in the future.
Samuel Blais: Here’s a guy who’s quickly making a name for himself throughout the organization. Though he was just sent back to his QMJHL team (Victoriaville Tigres), he was a force in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, posting 2 goals and a plus-2 rating. Blais seems to be developing into a quality depth player who can be physical and still contribute, so he could very well be a late-round steal for the club in coming years (he was drafted in the sixth round, 176th overall).
Phoenix Copley: Though the Blues are deep in terms of quality netminders, they may have just found a future star. Copley joined the Blues this summer in the blockbuster trade that sent TJ Oshie to Washington in exchange for the young tendy, Troy Brouwer, and a third-round pick in next year’s draft. The big goaltender has quickly made a name for himself in North America after playing for Michigan Tech, and then climbing the pro ranks to become a standout with the Hershey Bears of the AHL last season. He posted an impressive 2.17 GAA, .925 SV%, and a 17-4-3 record while with the Bears, and he’s only gotten better since. His quick lateral movement and large frame give him the ideal body type to play behind the Blues, and he may be able to fill a void if Jake Allen or Brian Elliott get injured. Copley will also push top prospect Jordan Binnington in Chicago, creating a healthy competition that should benefit them both this season.
Phoenix Copley is going to be the steal of the Oshie trade. Just wait. #stlblues
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) September 23, 2015
Blues Draftees You May Not Know Were Blues Draftees
As previously mentioned, the Blues have been a lot more successful at drafting players over the past 15 years, but not all picks pan out. Some end up making a name for themselves outside of the St. Louis organization due to necessary business transactions to try and improve the team immediately. However, these prominent young players have been making waves in the NHL and it’s nice to see that Blues scouts discovered their talent, regardless of who they play for now. Scouts spend countless hours scouring many teams at varying Junior levels to find these diamonds in the rough (NOTE: these are not the well-known choices like Ben Bishop, Lars Eller, or Erik Johnson. Also, all stats are NHL career numbers).
Carl Soderberg: Defense- 2nd-round, 49th overall 2004 draft. 161 GP, 29G, 65A, 94P, plus-12.
Reto Berra: Goalie- 4th-round, 106th overall 2006 draft. 49 GP, 2.94 GAA, .901 SV%, 1 SO.
David Rundblad: Defense- 1st-round, 17th overall 2009 draft. 104 GP, 4G, 19A, 23P, plus-16, 2015 Stanley Cup Champion.
Obviously there are plenty of other great prospects still forging towards a full-time NHL gig that have come through St. Louis, but luckily the organization has been able to retain their top guys and future stars. We’ve seen some become the new core of the team already, and fans can’t wait to see how others’ legacies unfold.
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Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.