Team takes defenseman, left winger early,
don't pick again until sixth, seventh rounds
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Blues general manager Doug Armstrong talked about the Blues going after "the best available player" when it came time to making their draft picks Sunday.
It seemed that going with the best available center was the way to go since the Blues are trying to reinforce the depth up the middle.
But when Armstrong said best "player," he certainly meant it as the Blues went for another defenseman with their first pick of the day, then traded away three picks to get another pick in the second round.
Vannelli, 18, was ranked No. 77 in the midterm rank among North American skaters but finished with a final ranking of No. 44.
"It's a very good feeling," Vannelli said. "I couldn't imagine this day going any better to have your name called.
"I interviewed with (the Blues) a few times. I talked to them a lot at the combine. I got something in the back of my head (and) an idea they'd take me. It's just good to hear your name called."
Vannelli had eight goals and 31 points in 25 games for his high school team before moving onto the USA U-18 squad, where he had two points in 14 games and had another six points in five games for the 2012 USA hockey select 17-player developmental camp.
"An offensive-defenseman," Vannelli said when describing his game, comparing it to Chicago's Nick Leddy and Edmonton's Justin Schultz. "I like to move the puck to my forwards and join the rush. I'm always thinking offense, but I'm responsible in my own zone, too."
A native of Minneapolis, Minn., Vannelli is 6-foot-2 but weighs only 165 pounds and is definitely a project in the Blues' system that is deep on defense.
"He's a kid who's got top-4 upside," Blues' director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said of Vannelli. "He's a skinny kid who's got a lot of room to grow with some strength. He’s far away from the National Hockey League right now, but he’s got anywhere from three to four years of school in front of him.
"We really liked the way that he came on and he played for the U.S. team. We thought he played to make a difference and we were really happy and excited to get him."
The Blues then traded up to pick No. 57 with the Edmonton Oilers, giving up a third round pick (83rd) and two fourth-round picks (94th and 113th) to select left wing William Carrier from Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"I'm pretty excited," Carrier said. "I had a rough year with the injuries (torn ligament in right ankle), so getting drafted in the second round was a dream come true.
"Yeah, 12 weeks to heal. But the ankle is 100 percent, so I'll be good for next season."
"We liked this kid, he was a super sleeper for us," Bill Armstrong said of Carrier. "He was injured a majority of the (last) year. He’s got some real good poise, he’s got some real good offensive ability, so we’re pretty excited and we think he can be a top-six forward.
"... We were looking for a top-six player and we were willing to give up (three picks). We felt he was a top-six guy."
Carrier was ranked 18th among North American skaters.
"I'm a power forward," Carrier said. "I score goals, a little bit of everything, a bit like Brian Bickell on Chicago."
Quick links to profiles from both players: http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=82879, http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=81908.
The Blues were wheeling and dealing once again when they traded away their seventh round pick (No. 203) along with a 2014 fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators to acquire the Predators' fourth round pick (No. 112). They used the pick to select 6-1, 161-pound left winger Zach Pochiro of Prince George of the Western Hockey League.
Pochiro, who is 19 and born in St. Louis, tallied 15 goals and 39 points in 65 games last season while picking up 104 penalty minutes. His profile page: http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=77609.
The Blues completed their draft with only four selections this year, as they picked defenseman Santeri Saari, a 19-year-old defenseman from Helsinki, Finland who played last year for Jokerit Jr. of the Finland-JR League.
Saari, who is 6-2 and 191 pounds, five goals and 23 points in 46 games for Jokerit last season: http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectdetail.htm?dpid=71059.