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Busy Times at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft

by Jeff Ponder

The Blues continued their busy off-season this past weekend. They were not finished when they acquired Jaroslav Halak.

Both Scout Jarmo Kekalainen and General Manager Larry Pleau will be leaving the organization this summer, and it looks as if the Blues will have a completely different look from now on. Kekalainen and company selected Jaden Schwartz as their first-round pick, going 14th overall. Schwartz was expected to be a late-first round pick, but Kekalainen felt the need to take him much earlier. As a member of the Tri-City Storm, the 5'10” 180 lb. forward scored 33 goals, 50 assists for 83 points in 60 games last season. His puck control and crafty hands earned him a first-round selection. Only good things were said by NHL scouts.

"I don't think Jaden has changed his style of play since he was 14 or 15 years old,” Jack Barzee of the NHL Central Scouting said. “He's very deceptive and shifty through the neutral zone and strong on the puck. It's very hard to get the puck off his stick."

But the question mark lies in his size. Blues fans have witnessed on several accounts how smaller players can be victims of poor puck control against bigger defensemen. Paul Kariya, Brad Boyes, David Perron and T.J. Oshie, all 6'0” or smaller, faced many problems last season keeping the puck in the offensive zone and on their stick in the corners.

But many players have succeeded that are small in stature. Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens (5'7” 173 lbs.) has made a living of deking around the best defensemen in the league and putting the puck in the net. Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning (5'9” 177 lbs.) has found a way to succeed in the league, scoring on blasts from the face-off dots and weaving around defenders to score the pretty goals.

As one of Jarmo's last decisions, the Blues are hoping for the sleeper pick with Schwartz. But the Blues were not done there.

Just a few minutes later, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a trade between the Blues and the Ottawa Senators. The Blues traded defenseman David Rundblad to the Senators for the 16th overall pick and preceded to select Vladimir Tarasenko. Needless to say, Rundblad's career as a Blues prospect was short lived.

After being selected 17th overall by the Blues in 2009, Rundblad was used as trade bait to acquire the pick that Jarmo wanted in this year's draft. It was obvious that the Blues' head scout had his eye on a certain prospect and he wanted him badly in the Blues' system.

Vladimir Tarasenko plays a little different style of a game than Schwartz. Standing at 6'0” and weighing 192 lbs, Tarasenko is a pulverizing forward that has a quick release on his shot and a great set of hands that make for quick passes.

“Vladimir is very effective around the net with his excellent overall skill level and vision,” NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. “He is a strong, mobile skater with a quick shot. He is not only a sniper, but also a good passer and playmaker. There are no real weaknesses in his overall game and he will be one of the most interesting prospects at the draft."

A big upside for Tarasenko is when his numbers are compared to Alexander Ovechkin's during his draft year. Ovechkin scored 13 goals and 23 points in 53 games, while Tarasenko put up 13 goals and 24 points in 11 less games played. He is not as crafty as the big Washington winger, but his numbers are very comparable in the Russian leagues.

Tarasenko was rated as the second best Russian player in the 2010 Entry Draft, just behind Kirill Kabanov (selected 65th overall by the New York Islanders due to worries of him playing in the KHL).

Still, the Blues were not done being the talk of the draft. They traded defensive prospect David Warofsky, drafted 95th overall by St. Louis in 2008, to the Boston Bruins for forward Vladimir Sobotka. Not too shabby of a deal if the Blues are looking for immediate help.

With third and fourth liners D.J. King, Cam Janssen and T.J. Hensick still mulling over their qualifying offers and Brad Winchester and B.J. Crombeen on the outs, the Blues secured a player that can play on a regular basis on the checking lines. Sobotka is a 22 year-old forward who registered ten points in 61 games last season that also has a very physical style of play. He is known as a tough forward that also has better hands when compared to the other feisty guys in the league.

This trade also makes sense because the Blues are stacked with defensive prospects. Warofsky just did not fit in the Blues' long term plans.

Kekalainen and Pleau definitely left the organization with a bang. If new GM Neil Armstrong and the Professional Blues Hockey Scouts can continue the trend that Jarmo and Pleau ended with, a vastly improved Blues team could be taking the rink on October 9th.

Stay tuned in with Jeff Ponder's BluesNetMix blog by checking in every Tuesday at bluesnetmix.com.

1 comment:

  1. Too long also, journalistic skill is an art not a hack job.