Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blues grab top prospect Rattie to begin final day of draft

Armstrong picks four forwards, two defensemen, pair
of goalies; first as team's director of amateur scouting

ST. LOUIS -- Without a first round pick for the first time in nine years, the Blues quickly went to work on Day 2 of the NHL with a plethora of selections.

In his first draft as the team's new director of amateur scouting since taking over for Jarmo Kekalainen, Bill Armstrong went for plenty of diversity as the Blues selected eight players Saturday over Rounds 2-7 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The Blues picked three times in the second round (two of the picks came as a result of trades a season ago), once in the third (they traded one third round pick to the New York Rangers) and once in each of the final four rounds, selecting a pair of goalies, two defensemen, two right wingers, a center and a left winger.

"It was a little bit different draft for us because we had to wait to see what all 31 teams did and kind of read off them and plan for that," Armstrong said.

The Blues had the second pick of the second round (32nd overall) as a result of a trade with the Colorado Avalanche in February and were thrilled to get 18-year-old right winger Ty Rattie with the selection.

Rattie, at 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, played a season ago for Portland of the Western Hockey League. He scored 28 goals and added 51 assists during the regular season and then added nine goals and 22 points in 16 playoff games in helping the Winterhawks to the WHL championship.

Rattie was ranked 17th by the NHL's Central Scouting ranking of North American skaters.

"We're very excited with our first pick with Rattie," Armstrong said. "He was rated a lot higher (and we didn't) initially didn't think he'd be there. When he was, we were ecstatic.

"He's got some good-end offensive hockey skills. He's got some really good thought process to his game. He's going to be one of those guys that has to prove his strength, he has some work to do to get to the NHL, but he certainly has the skill on the ice to play the game."

Rattie was a teammate of Brett Ponich, the 6-7, 225-pound defenseman the Blues drafted in the second round in 2009.

"I can't tell you how good it is to hear your name called at the NHL Draft," said Rattie, a Calgary, Alberta native. "When you're younger, you never thought about this. But to be here right now with an NHL jersey on, I can't tell you how good it feels."

Rattie defines himself as a versatile player at both ends of the ice.

"I'm more of an offensive guy. I like to have the puck, I love to know where my teammates are," he said. "I'm more of a playmaker, but at the same time I can take care of my defensive end. I'm proud of the improvements I've made in the defensive end."

The Blues, who had three of the first 16 picks in the second round, grabbed another right winger in Omsk, Russia's Dmitrij Jaskin with the 41st pick.

Jaskin, 18, played in 33 games with Slavia Praha in the Czech League this past season, recording 10 points (three goals, seven assists). The 6-1, 196-pound forward moved to the Czech Republic when he was eight months old and competed at the 2011 Under-18 World Championship for the Czech Republic. He scored a team-high four goals in six games. Jaskin was ranked fifth overall among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

The Blues' third pick in the second round (46th overall), which was obtained from Buffalo in the deal for Brad Boyes late last season, was used on 17-year-old Brandon, Manitoba defenseman Joel Edmundson.

Edmundson, at 6-4 and 191 pounds, played in 71 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL last season, recording 20 points (two goals, 18 assists). Edmundson said the Blues were certainly on his radar.

"I talked to them a few times," said Edmundson, who compares his game to that of Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester. "I met them in Toronto and actually met some of them Thursday. It wasn't a real big surprise. It's a really good organization. I'm so proud to be with them."

"I'm a big, stay-at-home defenseman but I can also chip in offensively. I (like to) play more physical."

The Blues were to pick at No. 72 but dealt the selection to the Rangers for 21-year-old Russian forward Evgeny Grachev, who was the Rangers' third round pick in 2008.

Grachev is a big center at 6-4, 224 pounds who played in eight games for the Blueshirts a season ago, registering no points. Grachev tallied 28 goals and added 38 assists in 153 games for the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford the past two seasons.

"There are some openings on our team and there was an opportunity to get a player that we had once scouted and viewed and everyone liked," Armstrong said of Grachev. "He has some really, really good upside in the NHL. He's obviously going to come over here and (have to) earn his spot. He has some upside with his size and skill package."

The Blues had another third-round pick at No. 88, obtained in the trade that sent defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay, and went goalie with the pick, taking Richmond Hill, Ontario native Jordan Binnington with the selection.

Binnington, 17, is 6-1 and 156 pounds. He helped Owen Sound win the Ontario Hockey League's Memorial Cup a season ago by posting a 27-12-1-4 record in 46 games with one shutout, a 3.05 goals-against-average and a .899 save percentage. Binnington was ranked third among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting.

Binnington made 41 saves in Game 6, including 14 in the third period and 25 saves in the 3-2 Game 7 overtime win over Kootenay in the championship series.

"It was an incredible season. I gained a lot of experience," Binnington said, describing playing for former Blue Mark Reeds with the Attack last season and winning it all. "We had such a tight group. It was a great atmosphere every day we came to the rink. It was a lot of fun. We wanted to win for each other."

But upon being selected, Binnington was stoked.

"They're a great organization," he said of the Blues. "I'm so excited right now."

The Blues went with Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec native Yannick Veilleux with their fourth round pick. Veilleux, 18, played last season with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, registering 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists).

The 6-2, 190-pound left winger fits the mold of a power forward.

"I'm a guy who is pretty physical who can score goals around the net," Veilleux said. "I don't like to be too fancy with the puck. I just play a simple game and be a physical (presence)."

Goalie was the pick for the fifth round again, as the Blues selected Vardmo, Sweden's Niklas Lundstrom. Lundstrom, 18, is 6-2 and 187-pounds who played last season with Aik Jr. in the Swedish Junior League. He appeared in 22 games and posted a 3.05 goals against average and .890 save percentage with one shutout.

"They're far off. They're still a ways away," Armstrong said of the goalies selected. "... They're both goaltenders with some good technique. They're both athletic goaltenders with good size. Goaltending's a long-natured development where you have to take a lot of time and have a lot of patience with them."

The Blues went with a center in the sixth round, taking 5-11", 157-pound Saint John, New Brunswick native Ryan Tesink. Tesink, 18, played last season with Saint John of the QMJHL and helped the team capture the Memorial Cup. He led all Saint John rookies in scoring with 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 59 games, helping the Sea Dogs tie a league record for most wins in a season with 58 and go undefeated at home in regulation (32-0-1-1).

With their final pick, the Blues used it in Vantaa, Finland defenseman Teemu Eronen in the seventh round. Eronen, 20, played last season with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League. The 5-11, 180-pound d-man recorded 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 48 games.

"We've added a lot of depth, a lot of skill, a lot of different positions," Armstrong said. "There's some good size in there. There's also some good, highly-skilled hockey players."

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