Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blues select four more forwards on second day of draft

Also make trade with Bruins to acquire young center Sobotka

Maybe it wasn't the intention, but the Blues sure made it known that the forward position was an area they wanted to replenish in their minor league system at this weekend's NHL Draft.

After selecting forwards Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko with a pair of first-round picks Friday night, the Blues used four of their five draft picks to select forwards as well, making it a grand total of six forwards and one defenseman drafted at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which concluded Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

At the conclusion of the draft, the Blues also announced they acquired center Vladimir Sobotka from the Boston Bruins for defensive prospect and Massachussetts native David Warsofsky.

The Blues picked Swedish forward Sebastian Wannstrom with their second-round selection (No. 44), forward Max Gardiner with their third-round pick (No. 74), Finnish defenseman Jani Hakanpaa with their fourth-round pick (No. 104), forward Cody Beach with their fifth-round selection (No. 134) and left winger Stephen MacAuley with their sixth-round pick (No. 164). The Blues had no seventh-round picks.

"We didn't jump defensemen to get to the forwards," said Blues' Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen, who conducted his last draft with the Blues this weekend. "That's the way our list was and that's the same thing I say about our nationalities every year. ... You don't jump the list because you think you have too many Europeans, too many forwards or too many (defensemen). You've just got to try and take the best player available."

Wannstrom is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward who scored 30 goals and added 57 points in 35 games last season With Brynas of the Swedish Junior Elite League but was scoreless in 18 games when he made the jump to the Swedish Elite League.

The 6-3, 176-pound Gardiner, whose older brother Jake was drafted 17th overall in 2008 by the Anaheim Ducks, played last season at Minnetonka (Minn.) High School. Bound for the University of Minnesota in the fall, Gardiner scored 17 goals and added 43 points while aiding his high school team to the state championship game. He missed eight games because of a broken wrist but is healed now.

"I'd like to say I'm a power forward," Gardiner said. "I like to mix it up, use my body to my advantage. I think I've got pretty good vision and hands for a big guy.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be a Gopher. I watched the Gophers growing up. They've been a good hockey program. ... Hopefully, we'll have some success there over the next few years."

Hakanpaa is a big defenseman and checks in at 6-4, 211 who tallied two goals and 14 points in 23 games with K-Vantaa of the Finnish Junior League a year ago. He also represented Finland in winning a bronze medal at the Under-18 World Junior Championships.

Beach, the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach, is a big forward at 6-5 but more in the mold of a Patrik Berglund at 180 pounds. Beach played last season for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and scored three goals and 14 points to go with 157 penalty minutes in 51 games.

The 18-year-old Macauley, at 6-1 and 175, scored eight goals and added 21 points in 56 games for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

The 5-10, 183-pound Sobotka, 22, comes to the Blues after spending the previous three seasons in the Bruins organization.

"I think our job is always to try and improve our team," said incoming Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who officially takes over for retiring Larry Pleau on July 1. "You certainly have a relationship with the players when you draft them, but our responsibility is to the fan base and to the ownership group to put the best team on the ice. Trades are part of our business. It's usually not a reflection on how you personally feel about someone. It's just how you're going to improve your team."

Sobotka, who played 13 games in Boston's playoff run this past spring, has six goals and 22 points in 134 NHL games, including 10 points in 61 games this past season. The Czech Republic native just completed his entry-level contract and will become a restricted free agent on July 1.

"He's a player that I think's going to fit into our group," Armstrong said. "With Lars (Eller's trade) to Montreal, I think there was a spot there and Vladi's going to have a chance to come in.

"He had surgery at the end of last season on his left shoulder. Our medical people have talked to their medical people and we're very comfortable that by the end of August, he'll be back up and running and getting into light contact and should be available for training camp. There is an injury there that we're well aware of."

The Blues gave up Warsofsky, a Marshfield, Mass. native who they selected in the fourth-round of the 2008 entry draft. Warsofsky played at Boston University and will now have the opportunity to stay at home and live out his NHL dream.

The Blues must now find themselves a replacement for Kekalainen, who will leave and become the President and General Manager of Jokerit HC in his native Finland. But the 43-year-old who joined the Blues in 2002, went out just as had hoped: with a successful run.

"That's exactly what I wanted to do," Kekalainen said. "These guys are great. It's a great way to cap off my last draft."

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