Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blues pick MacEachern living dream after briefly leaving hockey

Blues finished draft weekend with seven picks; no activity on trade front

Mackenzie MacEachern wasn't even playing hockey two years ago. Saturday, he was living the dream of slipping on a National Hockey League jersey.

The Blues completed their 2012 NHL Draft at Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center with seven selections, including the Bloomington Hills, Mich. native MacEachern, picked in the third round Saturday morning.

The Blues completed the two-day event with eight picks, focusing more on defense but picking a player from each position.
(Getty Images)
Blues draft picks on Saturday includes third-round selection Mackenzie
MacEachern (left) and second round pick Sam Kurker. 

The 6-foot-3, 183-pound MacEachern, who played in 29 games last season with Brother Rice High School in Michigan, scored 42 goals and totaled 90 points in only his second year of prep hockey. The 18-year-old left winger was ranked 138th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting after taking up the sport he loved as a kid. But after a brief hiatus of a couple years to try his luck at lacrosse, MacEachern was back on the ice.

"It's pretty unique how I've come out of high school and I'm in this situation," said MacEachern, who will attend Michigan State University this fall. "Two years ago, I was playing lacrosse not even focusing on hockey. (But) I gave up lacrosse my junior year just to focus on hockey.

"I played hockey growing up, since I was three. But going into high school, lacrosse was probably my main sport. ... Our school was focused on lacrosse. we won like 10 state championships in a row. I just put hockey to the side to focus on one thing. As I got older, I wanted to keep pursuing hockey. The love of the game came back. I kind of lost it at one point. But then it just came back to me."

MacEachern, who considers himself a power forward with good skating ability, didn't care where he was picked. He came to Pittsburgh with an agenda, and that was to go somewhere ... anywhere.

"I came here hoping to be selected anywhere in the draft," said MacEachern, who in 59 games in high school had 76 goals and 162 points. "It's an awesome feeling. Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to play in the NHL. This is one step closer. I've got to keep working. Maybe one day, I'll be there."

Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong really likes MacEachern.

"He's really athletic, a very athletic kid," Armstrong said of MacEachern. "... He's one of those guys that's got some intriguing qualities about him."

The Blues, after taking defenseman Jordan Schmaltz with the 25th pick in Friday night's opening round, grabbed 18-year-old Sam Kurker, who will attend Boston University this fall, in the second round.

Kurker played in 24 games last season with St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts and recording 60 points (32 goals, 28 assists) and in two seasons, scored 52 goals and totaled 97 points in 49 games. The 6-2, 208-pound right winger and native of Boston who has met fellow Bostonian Keith Tkachuk, was ranked 36th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and is considered a power forward along with MacEachern.

"I can't be more happy where I got picked," Kurker said. "I'm really excited. I don't even know how to describe it.

"I like to watch guys like David Backes. Just got to go hard to the net, make it hard to back down and really get the nose dirty."

The Blues, who used the pick on MacEachern that they got from the Brad Winchester trade in 2010 from Anaheim, picked right-handed defenseman Colton Parayko later in the third round with their own pick.

Parayko, 19, played in 53 games last season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with Fort McMurray, recording 42 points (nine goals, 33 assists). The 6-4, 191-pound Parayko is a native of St. Albert, Alberta.

The Blues grabbed another defenseman in the fourth round, going with 6-2, 187-pound Nick Walters. The 18-year-old left-hander played last season in the Western Hockey League with Everett. He had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) and 95 penalty minutes in 62 games played.

Walters attended Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp in Calgary last July and won a bronze medal with Team Pacific at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg. The Edmonton, Alberta native was ranked 67th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

"The intriguing quality about him is his size and his will," Armstrong said of Parayko. "Walters is a competitive kid. He put up more fights than any other draft-eligible defenseman. But I don't think he's a fighter. ... He's almost like a Roman Polak. He plays that kind of style."
(Getty Images)
Blues President John Davidson (left) greets goalie Francois Tremblay, the
team's fifth round selection upon being picked Saturday.

The Blues went goalie in the fifth round, taking 18-year-old Baie-Comeau, Quebec native Francois Tremblay.

The 6-2, 195-pound Tremblay played in 57 games last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for Val-d'Or, recording a 22-28-4 record with two shutouts, a 3.79 goals-against average along with a .882 save percentage. Tremblay was ranked 5th overall among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting.

"I'm really happy and I'm proud to be a part of the St. Louis Blues," said Tremblay, who models his game to that of Montreal's Carey Price. "I'm a big goalie, a strong goalie. I'm very calm.

"To wear an NHL sweater, I'm so happy. ... I had a great interview (with the Blues) at the combine. I had a great feeling."

The Blues finally went across the ocean with their sixth round pick, going to get Finnish defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who played with Jokerit Jr. in Finland's Junior League last season.

The 18-year-old Lindbohm played in 41 games last season and registering 10 points (three goals, seven assists). At 6-3 and 209-pounds, the native of Helsinki, Finland was ranked 46th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

And with their final pick in the seventh round, the Blues went with a center, grabbing Tyrel Seaman of Choiceland, Saskatchewan.

Seaman, 18, played in 32 games last season with Brandon in the Western Hockey League and recording 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). The 6-2, 196-pounder was ranked 104th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

It was another successful draft, according to Armstrong.

"I think we targeted our guys," Armstrong said. "The guys that we wanted, we really targeted them. Just looking at the sheet, those are the guys that we really wanted. It's important not that you like them, but we want somebody you really want. And you look down the list for us, the guys that we got, our scouts really put a lot of enthusiasm into really wanting that guy.

"If you look at the overall draft, there's skilled defensemen, two big power forwards that are in the middle with some good size. ... I think they all just fell in our lap, but I think everybody was over 6-1, 6-2. The average was probably about 6-2, 6-3 and good skating (ability). We were happy with all those elements. It's certainly a draft that we're excited about. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing the kids progress."

There were some trades, one particular whopper that saw Carolina acquire center Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh, and plenty of scuttlebutt for other deals -- including the Blues -- but nothing happened on the home front. But one can be sure general manager Doug Armstrong was busy working his phone and talking to other GM's looking to fill pieces in the current lineup, possibly setting up framework for a deal(s) to get done.

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