2013 was, simply put, not a good draft year for St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong’s resume. They began the evening with no first round pick, having traded it to the Calgary Flames in the trade that brought in Jay Bouwmeester. They ended the evening with just four new players in the organization, none of whom would go on to make a significant impact with the team. For better draft years, check out the other entries in our series:
- 2010: Two stars arrive
- 2011: Second round success
- 2012: A diamond in the rough
- 2013: A year to forget
- 2014: Success after success
- 2015: Dunn and done
- 2016: A lot of promise
- 2017: Stanley Cup foundation
Given the number of moving pieces involved and the dearth of actual picks, we’ll focus more on pick movement in this installment. Without further ado, let’s get started.
First Round Pick (#22): Calgary Flames Select Emile Poirier
The Blues traded their first-round pick to the Flames when they acquired Bouwmeester. Calgary then used that pick on Emile Poirier, a winger from the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. Poirier had 70 points and 101 penalty minutes (PIMs) in 65 games with the Olympiques in his draft year, and looked like a promising young power forward.
Poirier never reached his potential. After another season in the QMJHL and a season with the AHL’s Abbotsford (now Stockton) Heat, he made his debut with the Flames, but it didn’t last long. In all, he played eight games in the NHL, and recorded just one assist. He has played in the AHL since his last NHL game in the 2015-16 season.
Given that Bouwmeester became a top-pairing defenseman for the Blues, that’s not much of a price to pay. Sure, St. Louis might have selected Andre Burakovsky, who was drafted immediately after Poirier, instead, but even that would not be near the value that Bouwmeester has given the team over six seasons. There’s no question that the trade was a great deal for Armstrong.
Middle Rounds (2-4)
Tommy Vannelli, D (Minnetonka Skippers, MSHSL), #47
The Blues acquired their first pick in the 2013 Draft when they traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Ottawa Senators. This second round pick was paltry compensation for Bishop, who would go on to be a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, but Armstrong’s hand was forced by a peculiar stipulation in Bishop’s contract that guaranteed him free agency if he didn’t start a certain number of NHL games.
The Blues used the pick to select Tommy Vannelli, a defenseman out of high school in Minnesota. Vannelli had promise as an offensive defenseman, and went on to play with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. He played well there, too, before moving on to the AHL and the ECHL with the Blues’ affiliates.
Unfortunately, that was the peak of Vannelli’s progression. He was passed over by multiple defensive prospects in the Blues’ system, and failed to develop into an NHL talent. He never played a game in the big league, and the Blues did not tender him a qualifying offer this season, effectively ending his hopes of doing so.
Missed Opportunity: None
William Carrier, LW (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL), #57
A series of trades were involved in the Blues getting this pick. First, they traded their own second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Jordan Leopold. Then, they acquired this pick from the Edmonton Oilers by trading their own third and fourth-round picks in 2013, as well as a 2013 fourth-round pick they’d acquired from Tampa Bay by trading B.J. Crombeen. This pick was not Edmonton’s, but the Los Angeles Kings’, who had traded it to the Oilers in a prior pick swap.
With their newly acquired pick, the Blues selected William Carrier, a forward from LaSalle, Quebec who was playing for Cape Breton of the QMJHL. He’d collected 42 points and 41 PIMs in 34 games with the Screaming Eagles in his draft year, and brought decent size at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds.
Carrier spent less than a season in the Blues organization, as he was sent to the Buffalo Sabres as part of the trade that brought Ryan Miller to St. Louis the following February. He was later selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and is now a semi-regular in their lineup. He’s a league leader in hits, so he serves a specific role, but he isn’t much more than a bottom-six enforcer.
Missed Opportunity: Tyler Bertuzzi, #58
Tyler Bertuzzi isn’t a game changer, but he’s a better all-around forward than Carrier while still bringing an element of physicality. Ironically, the other successful NHL player chosen near Carrier was Zach Sanford, whom the Blues have since acquired via trade. If they’d identified him earlier, they could have drafted him here, and demanded something else from the Washington Capitals in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.
Zach Pochiro, LW (Prince George Cougars, WHL), #112
Yet another traded pick, this selection was originally the property of the Toronto Maple Leafs and came to the Blues by way of the Nashville Predators. St. Louis surrendered their seventh-round pick and a 2014 fourth-round pick to get this opportunity, a pick that fell one spot before their original fourth-round pick, which they had sent to Edmonton for pick 57.
With the 112th pick, the Blues selected Zach Pochiro, a winger and St. Louis native who was playing with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. He was tall but underweight at 6-foot-1, 154 pounds, and he had a decent scoring touch. Obviously, he appealed to the Blues in particular because of his ties to their home city.
Pochiro would go on to have a great post-draft season with the Cougars, scoring 66 points in 63 games, and then would pinball back and forth between the ECHL and the WHL for another season. He left the Blues organization in 2016, when he was part of the trade that brought former first-overall pick Nail Yakupov to St. Louis from the Edmonton Oilers.
Pochiro never got a shot in the NHL, but has remained a solid player in the ECHL. He’s played for the Allen Americans since the start of 2017, and has been roughly a point per game player most of that time.
Missed Opportunity: None
Late Rounds (5-7)
Santeri Saari, D (Jokerit, SM-liiga), #173
The Blues fifth-round selection went to Buffalo in the Jordan Leopold trade, and their seventh-round pick went to Toronto for the 112th pick. That left them with just a sixth-round pick, with which they selected a Finnish defenseman, Santeri Saari.
Saari showed a little offensive promise in his draft year, but offered little after that. He brought size, at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, but it didn’t make him an NHL-caliber defenseman. He never left Europe, and continues to play there, although he left his native Finland for Austria in 2018.
Final Grade: D
The only thing keeping this draft year from being a clear-cut “F” grade is the value the Blues got for trading their first-round pick. Despite some struggles with injury late in his tenure, Bouwmeester was a very good player for the Blues, and the Flames got little with the pick they acquired. Giving up two picks for Leopold, who played just 49 games across three seasons in St. Louis, was not especially good value, however.
With the picks the Blues did retain, they got no NHL impact. Carrier provided some value, by enticing the Sabres to surrender Miller, but he never played with the Blues. The other three selections never reached the NHL at all.
2012 and 2013 were the low point of Armstrong’s draft career, to be sure. But 2014 was the beginning of a great series of drafts for the Blues organization, a series that has continued to the present day.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.