The Blues chose not to give contracts to two of their 2015 draftees.
By failing to agree to contracts with 2015 fourth-round pick Glenn Gawdin and sixth-rounder Liam Dunda by the June 1 deadline, the St. Louis Blues have lost the rights to both draftees. As Joey Palazzola of RespectTheNote.com writes, Gawdin will become an unrestricted free agent, while Dunda is expected to re-enter the draft.
The organization’s decision to move on from Gawdin is a bit of a surprise, as he suited up for a preseason game prior to the 2016-17 campaign and joined the AHL Chicago Wolves on an amateur tryout agreement after the conclusion of his junior season. With three of Gawdin and Dunn’s fellow draftees–Vince Dunn, Adam Musil, and Luke Opilka–all having signed with the Blues over a year ago, though, it became increasingly obvious that the Blues were skeptical about Gawdin’s skills. The fact that he was released from his tryout with the Wolves just three days after showing up further exemplified that skepticism (or outright displeasure).
Gawdin was viewed as a potential late first-rounder in the season leading up to his selection by the Blues. While he experienced a massive dive in the months prior to the draft, he was still viewed as a high-ceiling player who had the potential to be a Vladimir Sobotka-like utility forward at the NHL level.
Gawdin had his best season yet as a junior player in 2016-17, posting career bests in goals (26), assists (33), overall points (59), and plus-minus (21).
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He also collected six goals and five assists in 14 postseason contests. That apparently wasn’t enough to sell the Blues on Gawdin, though it’s understandable why they might have felt that signing him would be overkill, as they’re already attempting to develop a multitude of mid-level forward prospects such as Mackenzie MacEachern, Adam Musil, Conner Bleackley, Samuel Blais, and Justin Selman. Since they won’t have an AHL affiliate next season, they’ll have a limited number of AHL roster spots available, and perhaps they felt that it was more sensible to let Gawdin hook on with another organization than to add him to the already large stable of organizational forwards.
As a former sixth-rounder who’s just 19 years old, Dunda is a different story. He was a project from the time the Blues took him–he was only 17 at the time of his selection and had carved out a reputation as an enforcer–but he really flashed some offensive potential in 2016-17 and may be worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
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The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder collected 10 goals and 16 assists in 65 games for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL this past season, and since he’s set to re-enter the draft, the Blues could theoretically take him again and hold on to his rights for another two seasons without having to give him a contract. While that’s perhaps unlikely since they had him within their grasp and are letting him walk right now, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be intrigued by him now if they were excited about him when they first drafted him considering the progress that he’s made.
The Blues also lost the rights to Finnish defenseman Santeria Saari on Thursday, though it had been several years since he had been affiliated with the team in any way. Saari, a 6-foot-3, 216-pounder who was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, attended training camp with the NHL club in 2014, but he hadn’t appeared at prospect camp, training camp, or the Traverse City prospect tournament since then.
Considering the fact that Saari is now playing in the Finnish minor leagues after a two-year stint in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever make the jump over to the North American game.