Notes & Observations from St. Louis Blues Prospect Camp, July 6

Sep 22, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn (29) reaches for the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn (29) reaches for the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /

More exciting prospect action took place on Wednesday at the IceZone.

Wednesday was the second day of the St. Louis Blues’ annual prospect camp, and it was more abbreviated of an on-ice workout than we saw on Day 1. Both groups of players–“Team Tkachuk” and “Team MacInnis”–did drills on the ice for just over half an hour each, and they took part in a scrimmage that wasn’t quite as intense as the one we saw on Tuesday. Here are a few key happenings from Wednesday’s practice:

  • Forward Sam Kurker absolutely dominated the scrimmage period on Wednesday, collecting four goals and consistently becoming too tough to handle for his opponents in front of the net. Kurker, a 6-foot-1, 207-pounder, was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft and has had a long, winding road to the pros. He transferred out of Boston University during his sophomore season, spent time in the USHL, and then finally re-emerged at Northeastern last fall. The clock is definitely ticking on the 22-year-old Kurker’s chances to establish himself as a prospect, but his performance Wednesday was a major sign of progress.
  • Defenseman Tommy Vannelli, who’s expected to be a full go in the AHL this season after almost all of last season due to an injury, was once again very impressive on Wednesday. He showed off an extremely powerful slapshot during drills, one that looks like it could eventually do damage on the power play.
  • Not to say he’s been an absolute standout or anything, but 2015 sixth-rounder Liam Dunda looks like a completely different player than he was during last year’s prospect camp, and he’s much more of an all-around threat this year. Dunda, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder who did most of his damage as an enforcer early in his junior career, has developed more of an offensive element to his game, and it was on display Wednesday, as he got some good chances in front of the net during the scrimmage. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not extremely meaningful, but it was somewhat noteworthy that Dunda played on the top line for Team MacInnis during the scrimmage, working alongside this year’s top pick, Tage Thompson.

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  • One guy who has stood out a bit over the first two days is Dmitrii Sergeev, a 6-foot-2, 207-pound defenseman who signed with the Blues as an undrafted free agent in September of 2014. Sergeev is a big, physical, player with pretty good puck handling skills, and he moves up and down the ice with confidence. He’s still got youth on his side, and he looks like a guy that has a chance to contribute at the AHL level this season, though with the defensive depth that they’ll already have there, the Blues may choose to start him in the ECHL this year. Sergeev’s biggest hurdle to clear, as it always has been, is staying healthy for an extended basis. That is, after all, why this camp is the first extended opportunity we’re getting to get a good look at Sergeev, as he was injured for both prospect camp and training camp last year.
  • After strong performances Tuesday, two young defensemen showed glimpses on Wednesday of why they’re prospects rather than NHL players. Niko Mikkola, who was one of the most noticeable players on Day 1, had some difficulty maintaining his balance during the scrimmage period on Wednesday. He needs to do a better job of staying on his feet consistently if he’s going to turn into a reliable NHL blueliner. The same could be said for 2015 second-rounder Vince Dunn, who was also very good on Tuesday (and was solid more often than not on Wednesday). Dunn had some balance issues, and at one point he got thrown to the ice twice in one shift during the scrimmage.

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  • Nolan Stevens, a fifth-round selection in last month’s draft, had another great day on Wednesday. For the second day in a row, Stevens had arguably the most impressive play of the scrimmage with an amazing breakaway opportunity. Stevens, who had 42 points in 41 games during his sophomore season at Northeastern University, was somewhat of a one-year wonder in terms of offensive production. If he can keep that performance up and take advantage of his athletic skill, though, the Blues might have a steal on their hands.

Next: Observations from Blues Prospect Camp, Day 1

  • I hesitate to read much if at all into the goalies’ performance in these practices, both because goalies by nature are slow so to develop, and because the offensive competition that they’re facing isn’t exactly close to NHL-caliber. But Ville Husso, a 2014 fourth-rounder by way of Finland, really delivered an outstanding performance during Wednesday’s scrimmage. It should be very fun to watch him develop during his first season in North America, whether it’s in the AHL or ECHL.