Apologies on the tardiness of the draft preview. Four hours of trying to figure out why your trackpad won't left click will do that sometimes.
The Blues, for the first time since 2002, do not have a first round draft pick. As previously noted, the 11th overall pick goes to Colorado for compensation in the Chris Stewart deal, while the Blues have their own pick at 41st overall, plus Colorado's 32nd pick, and Buffalo's 46th overall pick, which was gained in the Brad Boyes deal.
The problem in drafts is that the picks' chances of making the NHL drop off as the rounds tick down. There's less of a chance for a second round pick to make the NHL than there is a first rounder, of course. Heck, not all teams in the first round are lucky enough to draft a Steven Stamkos or a Jeff Skinner, who make an impact right out of the box. The Blues, with about 95% certainty, will not draft someone who we will see in the Note this season, probably even barring another catastrophic round of injuries that this team seems so prone to.
So, who do the Blues draft? Defensemen? The top six seem set, and the Rivermen seem to have a fairly decent core, so look for any D-men picked to be strictly prospect material. A scorer? Good luck finding someone with a laser cannon in the second round, unless injury's knocked them down a peg or two. Of course the Blues'd like to find a scorer - no one enters into the draft thinking "Oh, you know what? I'd like to draft a pylon." But any kid with a scoring touch is going to be the kind that needs to be cultivated through hard work in Juniors or NCAA hockey.
A goaltender? There is a bit of a hole in that chain, as current back-up goalie Ty Conklin does not seem long for the franchise - he will more than likely be let go come July 1st. If the Blues do not sign a UFA back-up, then Ben Bishop (once re-signed before July 1st) is more than likely going to get called up from Peoria, leaving Jake Allen to be the top of the totem pole for the Rivermen. Gerald Coleman of the Alaska Aces was named the ECHL goaltender of the year last season, but is not currently signed by the Blues. Signing him would be the stopgap needed in Peoria.
Drafting goalies tends to be an odd business, with the fact that their development takes forever to complete. Who looks like a hot shot at age 18 could mature into a terrible goaltender, and vice versa (remember, everyone thought Tim Thomas was a lifetime ECHLer at best).
What will the Blues' best bet be? Why not take one or two of the picks and get some NHL ready talent. Do the Blues need some firepower to replace Brad Boyes - or at least the Boyes of the past? Absolutely. Would even an NHL top six forward in general help? Yes. While it was admirable how well Chris Porter and Philip McRae played while they were in St. Louis at the end of last year, another year with the Rivermen would do both of those youngsters good. If the Blues cut Cam Janssen loose on July 1st and decide to go with Ryan Reaves, that also leaves another spot open.
Does predicting what the team will do at the draft do much good? Of course not, because it's always tough to predict what GM Doug Armstrong will do anyway. But so far, with the pre-draft trade excitement that has happened so far, don't be shocked if something big goes down tonight or tomorrow - maybe not necessarily with St. Louis, but this year could be a hum dinger as far as trades go.