Revisiting Doug Armstrong’s Drafts — 2019

The St. Louis Blues have had Doug Armstrong as their general manager since the 2010-11 season. Throughout that time, he’s done a great job in bringing the franchise its first Stanley Cup in 2019. While his drafts have been hit or miss, he’s done very well in the trade market. The trades for Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, Pavel Buchnevich, Jay Bouwmeester, and others stand out. Some draft picks of his that stand out are Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Ivan Barbashev, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and others.

St. Louis Blues Doug Armstrong
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Roberson)

This is a continuation of a series started by my colleague at The Hockey Writers, Stephen Ground. He covered the drafts from 2010 to 2018, and I am thrilled to pick it back up here. All credit goes to him for the idea, format, and a number of other parts of this series. Here are the entries from 2010-2018 in this series:

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The Blues didn’t have a first-round pick in 2019. They traded it to the Buffalo Sabres in the O’Reilly deal, along with budding superstar Tage Thompson. They only had five picks in this draft, two of which were in the seventh round. They’ve gotten very little out of this class to this point, but that’s not a surprise. Winning a Cup is what makes this all worth it in the end.

No Picks for the Blues in First Round

Pick 31: Ryan O’Reilly Trade

As I mentioned above, the Blues didn’t have a pick in the first round. With the 31st pick, the Sabres selected defenseman Ryan Johnson. He hasn’t made his debut in the NHL yet, but he’s played three solid seasons at the University of Minnesota since being drafted. There’s a good chance that he gets an opportunity to play in the NHL next season, and he ranks ninth in the most recent Sabres prospect rankings from THW.

The Middle Rounds (2-4)

Nikita Alexandrov, C (Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL), #62

The only player in this class for the Blues that has played any NHL time is Nikita Alexandrov. He’s played nine games this season and has one point. While he hasn’t gotten a ton of experience yet, he looked the part in his stint in St. Louis this season. He has all the makings of a quality bottom-six forward that does all of the little things well. He has taken his play to another level in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season.

Nikita Alexandrov St. Louis Blues
Nikita Alexandrov, St. Louis Blues (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

In 2021-22, he had just 26 points in 67 games with the Springfield Thunderbirds. He did have a good playoff run last season with eight points in 18 games. His growth from last season to this season was clear during training camp and the preseason. In the AHL this season, he has 13 points in 14 games and is a plus-5. There’s a good chance that Alexandrov is with the Blues later this season and more next season. He was projected as a bottom-six center coming out of the draft and will likely become that by next season.

The best player that the Blues could have realistically taken over Alexandrov is New York Rangers defenseman, Zac Jones. He’s played 38 games as a solid defenseman for a contending team. This class hasn’t had a ton of success outside of the first round, but there is still time.

Colten Ellis, G (Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL), #93

Their next pick was goaltender Colten Ellis in the third round. He’s the odd man out for the Thunderbirds right now. He’s behind Joel Hofer and Vadim Zherenko. He hasn’t lived up to the expectations to this point. He’s played a total of six games in the AHL and 46 games in the ECHL for the Tulsa Oilers. His numbers have not stood out either, but he’s still only 22 years old. Having a former third-round pick as the number three goaltender in the AHL after three years is not ideal.

In terms of other netminders taken in this draft, the list is still thin. The only ones to have success in the NHL thus far are 13th overall pick Spencer Knight and 36th overall pick Pyotr Kochetkov. There’s still time for Ellis to find his form and rise up the ranks, but it’s not looking probable right now.

The Late Rounds (5-7)

Keean Washkurak, C (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL), #155

Keean Washkurak underwent wrist surgery before this season but has since returned to the lineup. The Blues have had limited success in the fifth round over the past decade. Players that stand out are Niko Mikkola (2015), and that’s it. Washkurak has the potential to eventually get a chance with the Blues, but there are a number of forwards ahead of him.

Keean Washkurak Mississauga Steelheads
Keean Washkurak, formerly of the Mississauga Steelheads (Terry Wilson / OHL Image)

He was good for the Thunderbirds last season with 13 goals and 23 points in 64 games. He hasn’t produced much in four games this season for them with one assist. He seems to fit the Blues play style well with a combination of speed and physicality. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing in a regular-season NHL game at some point next season. Only one player drafted after Washkurak has played more than 10 games in the NHL. The Nashville Predators took Juuso Parssinen with the 210th pick, he’s played 13 games and scored five points. Development takes time, so it’s not over for Washkurak yet.

Vadim Zherenko, G (MHK Dynamo Moskva, Russia Jr.), #208

As I mentioned earlier, Zherenko has surpassed Ellis and is the number two goaltender in the AHL right now. He played well in the prospect tournament over the summer, which earned him a spot in the AHL as Hofer’s backup. He’s appeared in seven games this season with a save percentage (SV%) of .918. He’s only 21 years old, but I don’t know if he can ever get a consistent role in the NHL.

He’s behind Hofer, and Jordan Binnington still has four seasons left on his contract after this season. However, I think the Blues have gotten more out of Zherenko than they expected to this point. The last goaltender that the Blues took after the third round with success was Ville Husso. He was a fourth-round pick and has 45 NHL wins with a SV% of .914. It’s hard for a seventh-round goaltender to reach the NHL. Pat Jablonski is the only goaltender that was taken in the seventh round by the Blues to play in an NHL game. He went 28-62-18 with a SV% of .879 in his career. He was also taken in the seventh round in 1985 when the draft was 12 rounds. It’s going to remain an uphill climb for Zherenko moving forward.

Jeremy Michel, LW (Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL), #217

Not much to cover with Jeremy Michel to this point. He played four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and is now playing at the University of Moncton. He has no contract with the Blues and likely won’t ever play in the NHL with them. Seventh-round picks are hit or miss, especially when it’s the last pick of the draft.

Final Grade: Realized, D+; Potential, C+

This has been a rough but expected draft to this point for the Blues. They only had five selections total after the O’Reilly trade and other trades that they made. I still think they have something with Alexandrov, and Washkurak could be a player, but they’ve gotten very little out of the class so far.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues Winter Classic
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues Winter Classic (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

This draft would have been a disaster if the Blues hadn’t won a Cup. Even with how good Thompson has become, the Blues and Sabres both won this trade. The 2019 Draft overall hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. So the Blues not getting much out of it isn’t a surprise in that regard either. I think this is the one draft that can be excused for Armstrong given the circumstances. It hasn’t been good, but that’s fine with the Cup victory.

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