The 2014 NHL Draft kicks off Friday, and the St. Louis Blues will be looking to add to their organizational depth, a much-needed task considering that they didn’t have a first-rounder in 2013. It’s logical to think that they would go after a forward at pick 21, since they gave up a top forward prospect, William Carrier, in the Ryan Miller trade, while they’ve increased their defensive depth in recent years with prospects Jordan Schmaltz, Jani Hakanpaa, and Joel Edmundson. They could definitely go in either direction, though, so it should be interesting to see who they ultimately end up selecting. Here are ten prospects to keep an eye on as the Blues approach draft day.
Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton (QMJHL)
Barbashev, a 6-foot, 180-pound left wing, has already been playing in America for two years and has stated a strong desire to play in the NHL, so he won’t bring the uncertainty that comes with many Russian prospects. He’s considered to be a strong two-way forward, providing good defensive physicality and strong passing and shooting skills. His strength comes with setting up plays rather than scoring, but he seems to be developing offensively and could be a reliable scorer before it’s all said and done. In addition, he’s closer to 19 years old than many prospects in the class, so it’s possible that he’ll be closer to NHL-ready than some others.
Eric Cornel, C, Peterborough (OHL)
Cornel, a 6-foot-2, 186-pounder, is a quick skater who has shown a strong ability to win face-offs and distribute the puck. He significantly developed during his second year with Peterborough, going from 16 to 62 points. Cornel has a tall frame that doesn’t seem to have filled out quite yet, so it’s very reasonable to believe that he could turn into a big, physical center-ice presence once he’s matured, similarly to Blues centers like David Backes and Patrik Berglund.
Joshua Ho-Sang, RW/C, Windsor (OHL)
Ho-Sang, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, could be the most desirable option for the Blues. The 18-year-old has been an NHL player in the making since his early childhood, being raised by a professional tennis player who encouraged his athleticism and a nutritionist who helped frame his body. He intently studied the play of Hall-of-Famer Denis Savard, and he incorporated that studying into his game. His production backed all that hard work up, as he had 85 points (32 goals and 53 assists) in 2013-14. If Ho-Sang develops, he could become a nice all-around player with a style similar to T.J. Oshie.
Dylan Larkin, C, USA-U18
One thing’s for sure: the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Larkin is going to be physical. That’s been the general gist of the scouting reports on him, and he’s backed it up by registering 106 penalty minutes in 108 USHL games. He’s still developing as an all-around offensive player, but he has shown the ability to get the puck into the net, scoring 29 goals in 55 games this past season. Larkin still has some work to do, and he’ll likely do that at the University of Michigan, where he’s committed for next year.
Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener (OHL)
MacInnis will be the sentimental top choice for the Blues’ first pick by many fans, as he’s the son of legendary Blues defenseman Al MacInnis, who still remains a member of the front office. MacInnis, a St. Louis native, played in the OHL for the first time this year, so he probably still needs some more time than most prospects to develop into an NHL player. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, the lefthanded-shooting MacInnis could develop into the strong center-ice presence that the Blues have tended to value with players like David Backes, Patrik Berglund, and Maxim Lapierre.
Dominik Masin, D, Slavia Jr. (Czech Rep.)
Masin, a 6-foot-1, 187-pounder from the Czech Republic, is a physical, defense-first defenseman who could fit with the Blues as an eventual successor to aging Barret Jackman. The 18-year-old is said to be quickly improving, and he would be a nice complement to the string of young defensive prospects that the Blues have developed with 2012 first-rounder Jordan Schmaltz and Finnish product Jani Hakanpaa.
Sonny Milano, LW, USA-U18
Milano, a 6-foot, 183-pounder who is committed to Boston College for next year, is an intriguing offensive prospect who has the potential to become both a scorer and effective assist man at the NHL level. He scored 24 goals and had 48 assists for the U.S. team in 2013-14, signifying that he could be one of the more developed prospects in the class. Expect Milano to go to college at least for a year, but he’s a guy that might not need much if any minor-league time before he’s ready to contribute.
Marcus Pettersson, D, Skelleftea Jr. (Sweden)
Pettersson’s a tall but rail-thin blue liner at 6-foot-3 and 167 pounds, and he’ll certainly need some time to fill out before he’s ready to play in the NHL. He has the potential to be a solid two-way presence, and though his body isn’t there yet, his skills are apparently rather polished, as he was able to ascend to the Swedish national league at barely 18 years old. He’d be a quality long-term project, which would be fine since the Blues are set on the blue line for the next three or four years anyway.
Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)
Scherbak, a 6-foot, 172-pound Russian native who played in America for the first time in 2013-14, had a spectacular rookie showing in juniors, scoring 28 goals and notching 50 assists in 65 games. He’s said to have already adjusted well to the American game, and in addition he’s said to already be a relatively good English speaker. Scherbak may not be a dominant two-way player, but he can definitely make some big contributions at the offensive end.
Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay (USHL)
Schmaltz, the brother of 2012 Blues first-rounder Jordan Schmaltz, could fit into the Blues’ plans as an elite skater who can effectively distribute the puck. He needs to add to his slender 6-foot, 172-pound frame and develop as a scorer, and he’ll likely do both of those things by joining his brother at the University of North Dakota next year.