Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blues go forward-heavy in second day of draft

Of team's 10 draft picks, eight were forwards 
including Jaskin best friend Barbashev

After taking Robby Fabbri with the 21st pick Friday night, the Blues concluded the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon with 10 picks, and they made the forward position the focus with eight selections. They also took one defenseman and a goalie that was rated at the top of the European draft prospects. 

After taking Robby Fabbri with the 21st pick in the first round Friday, the Blues used  the third pick of the second round (No. 33 overall) on offense again with the selection of left wing/center Ivan Barbashev, who played for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and is close friends of the Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin.
Ivan Barbashev

"I played with him on the same line two years ago," Barbashev said of Jaskin. "He was my linemate."

Barbashev led Moncton in assists (43) and was second on the team in points (68) in 48 games a season ago. He went on to lead the Wildcats with ten points (four goals, six assists) in six postseason games.

"I'm a power forward; I really like to play a physical game," Barbashev said. "I like to make simple plays. I'm a playmaker and a power forward."

Barbashev, 18, is 6-foot and comes in at 181 pounds and comes from Moscow, Russia and was the youngest member of Russia's bronze-medal team at the 2014 World Junior Championship. He chipped in with a goal and an assist in seven games.

Barbashev was projected to be a first round pick but slipped into the early second round.

"We knew there was a little bit of a Russian factor involved there," said Bill Armstrong, the Blues' director of amateur scouting. "His determination and effort and who he is ... we love him. We're really excited about getting him where we did."

With their second pick of the second round (52nd overall), the Blues went Russian again and picked center Maxim Letunov, who played at Youngstown of the United States Hockey League. 

Letunov, 18, is also from Moscow and is listed at 6-2 and 155 pounds. He scored 19 goals and added 24 assists in 60 games last season. He is committed to play at Boston University, where Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk played his college hockey. 

In the third round (82nd pick), the Blues used the pick on 6-0, 170-pound defenseman Jake Walman, who will play at Providence College this season.

Walman, 18, finished second among Toronto Jr. Canadiens blueliners with 33 points (seven goals, 26 assists) in 43 games of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He was ranked No. 47 among North American skaters.

He said the Blues felt right from the get-go.

"From the interviews and the combine especially, I had a strong connection with all the scouts right away," said Walman, who describes his game as that of an offensive-defenseman. "It kind of felt like home, even a second home to me. Being in the room, I felt totally comfortable. Every time St. Louis had a pick, I was kind of on the edge of my seat there.

"The vibe I got from them wasn't something I got from the other (teams)."

With the first of two fourth-round picks (the pick acquired from Toronto earlier in the day in a trade that sent defenseman Roman Polak to the Maple Leafs for defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and the 94th pick), the Blues took Finnish goalie Ville Husso, who completed his season with HIFK of Finland's top professional league. 

"You want to try and make the deal as equitable for both sides," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said of adding an extra pick. "We were able to gain a fourth-round pick. Toronto had a pick very close to that spot too, so they felt like it was something they could do to finalize the deal and that was important for us."

Husso, 19, finished his rookie season with HIFK and ranked in the top ten in goals-against average (1.99) and save percentage (.923) with two shutouts.
Ville Husso

A three-time medalist with Finland, Husso served as the backup on Finland's gold-medal winning team at the 2014 World Junior Championship.

"That was a little bit of a surprise that he was there at that point," Bill Armstrong said of Husso.

"It's a big thing and a big step for me," Husso said. "... I use my body and butterfly style. I'm a smart goalie; I read the game well.

The Blues then selected right wing Austin Poganski with the 110th pick in the fourth round. Poganski, 18, is 6-foot and 194 pounds from St. Cloud, Minn. He scored 19 goals and had 31 points in 55 games playing for Tri-City of the United States Hockey League.

Poganski also was a member of the 2013 USA World Junior A Challenge team as well as the 2013 USA U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial team. He will attend the University of North Dakota this fall, adding to the line of Blues alums (T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter among others to have played in Grand Forks).

The Blues' fifth round pick (124th overall) came in the form of 5-8, 172-pound right wing Jaedon Descheneau, who played the past three seasons for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.

After scoring just three goals in 54 games for the Ice in 2011-12, the Edmonton native Descheneau jumped to 30 goals and 78 points in 69 games in 2012-13 and then 44 goals and 98 points in 70 games a season ago.

The Blues had two picks (172nd and 176th) in the sixth round and used them on two more forwards.

They first took 6-2, 210-pound right wing Chandler Yakimowicz of Kingston, Pa., who was a member of the London Knights of the OHL last season.

The 18-year-old Yakimowicz had three goals and seven points in 33 games with the Knights before playing for the USA U-18 squad in the USHL and the WBS Jr. Knights U-18 team of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League.

The Blues then took Samuel Blais of the QMJHL, when he played for Victoriaville and had four goals and 14 points in  25 games.

Blais, who just turned 18 on June 17, is listed at 5-10 and 164 pounds.

The Blues concluded the draft by taking right wing Dwyer Tschantz, who last played in 2012-13 at the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp. 

A Wilmington, Del. native, the 19-year-old Tschantz also was a member of Team Comcast from the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, where he had 27 goals and 54 points in 47 games.

"Each year's a different year," Bill Armstrong said. "Sometimes you get the pick, sometimes you don't. Today was a fun day because the guys you really liked, you had a chance at."

Doug Armstrong said the Blues didn't necessarily go for need.

"We believe that you pick the best available player," Doug Armstrong said. "It was a forward-heavy draft and so we were able to fill our cupboards with what was based around the forwards. 

"I could speak for 30 GM's today that it was a great day. We all feel we're very happy with what we have and the next decade is going to tell us if this is a good or bad draft. We're excited about it now, but it's up to the players to prove our scouting staff correct."

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