Looking back at the picks that the Blues made yesterday at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, something stands out - smarts. Not necessarily the smarts of the scouts (though those are apparent) but generally the smarts of the players. While reading through various profiles scattered across the web, the praising of the on-ice awareness, ability to find a way to the net, and general hockey sense of all of the players is reassuring.
Take the Blues’ first pick in this draft, Ty Rattie. Some pooh poohed him and said he’d "fall to the second round." Of course, when Bleacher Report’s who is saying a player is overrated, a reader must always take that with a grain of salt. Rattie was ranked 17th overall among North American skaters, and according to HockeysFuture.com:
He is the epitome of a player with a "nose for the net". What makes Rattie most valuable is his obvious thought process on the ice. He is not a powerful skater, yet he seems to be able to hang on to the puck when it matters most. A versatile forward and a consistent special teams player.
That is exactly what the Blues were looking for. Once you get past the pop-up ads on Bleacher Report and get to the obligatory slideshow, the biggest argument against selecting Rattie is his size, as though he is incapable of putting on muscle mass. The Blues very well knew going into this draft that they were not going to draft a league ready player, and they’re fine with this. Rattie is a cog that will prove useful to the team in the future, which is the point of the draft.
The Blues’ last pick of the draft, I was assured by a Finnish friend, might just be the steal of the later rounds. Teemu Eronen plays for Jokerit Helsinki. You might remember that as the club that former Blues drafting czar Jarmo Kekalainen left to become the GM of. If you don’t think that this pick was passed on to the Blues by Jarmo you’re insane. The kid fits the Blues’ d-man description to a T: smart, good from the blueline, can set up plays, and is good on the powerplay. He’s not big and bulky, but he can see the ice and understand what he needs to do.
Another apparent trend is strength. Demitrij Jaskin is quite the big boy, at 6’3’ and 198 lbs already. Joel Edmundson will be a defender that can protect and clear the crease, and considering that he is 6’5" and 191 lbs, can only get bigger - and hopefully more aggressive.
Where the Blues impressed most are their two goaltending selections. Jordan Binnington (@binnnasty on Twitter) was the Most Outstanding Goaltender in the Memorial Cup tournament, apparently has a wicked snark (read his Twitter posts) and is interested in Ultimate Fighting. He’s a solid 18 year old goalie with tons of potential. While he needs to bulk up, there’s no need to rush a goaltender. Look at Tim Thomas.
The other goaltender selected was Niklas Lundstrom out of Sweden. All you have to do is look at his stats for his play in the U-18 WJC and the fact that he was awarded the best goaltender award for the tournament while leading Sweden to a silver medal, and any concerns about goaltenders in the pipeline should melt away.
The Blues, despite not having a first round draft pick, still finished the draft strong and with some picks that can do the farm teams some good at some point. If any make the big club, as always, remains to be seen - but if another annual injury-fest happens in a few seasons, they'll have some solid reinforcements to call up.