The Blues were born in 1967 and played in the Stanley Cup Finals in each of their first three years of existence. Although the team has never captured the Stanley Cup, the Blues do hold a prestigious achievement in that they qualified for the playoffs every spring from 1980 to 2004.
St. Louis has struggled the last few years but has turned the on-ice misfortunes of the team into a windfall of top youngsters vying for a roll with the organization. Thanks to a combination of poor performance and shrewd asset management, the Blues have drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft 7 times in just the last 4 years.
Here is a look at some of the top prospects in the system for the St. Louis Blues...
Top Forward: Lars Eller
HT: 6'1 WT: 198 Lbs. Stats: 39GP 7-25-32 Pts.
The product of Denmark was the highest drafted player from that country when St. Louis chose him 13th overall in 2007. After two seasons in the Swedish Elite League with Frolunda, Eller made the move to North America this season and has spent most of the schedule on the farm with the Peoria Rivermen. The bulk of his 32 points have come by way of assists which fits the scouting reports that suggests Eller is a terrific playmaker first and a decent scorer second. Eller leads the Rivermen in scoring and represented the team at the annual AHL All-Star game but somehow didn't record a point in his team's 10-9 loss. The Dane suited up for the NHL club in November and stuck around for about a week, playing 5 games in that span.
Top Defenceman: Alex Pietrangelo
HT: 6'3 WT: 206 lbs. Stats: 9GP 2-7-9 Pts.
Another 1st round pick made by St. Louis, Pietrangelo has become a bit more of a project than expected during his draft year. That hasn't really been due to poor performance but rather because of injury last year and a conscious decision by the organization this year. The Ontario native has played 17 NHL games over the course of the last couple of years, just enough to not count against his entry level contract - smart planning by GM Larry Pleau and the brass.
Pietrangelo played for Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship and had some equally high and low moments. Although he led all blueliners with 12 points and had a +9 rating, Pietrangelo was also guilty of more than his fair share of defensive lapses. At the end of the tournament he was returned to the Ontario Hockey League and promptly traded from Niagara to Barrie. The Colts are a contender this year for the OHL crown and adding Pietrangelo to their already impressive line up has only made them better.
Top Goalie: Ben Bishop
HT: 6'7 WT: 205 lbs Stats: 14-9-3 2.73 GAA .904 SV%
The Blues have a trio of talented goalie prospects and any one of them could have rightfully claimed this position. Ben Bishop, a 3rd round selection back in 2005, is now playing in his second full season as a pro after three years at the University of Maine. The former Black Bear has improved his stats line from a year ago but there is still room for improvement. What separates Bishop, in my mind, from both Jake Allen and Hannu Toivonen is that towering 6'7 frame which has to be an imposing sight for oncoming shooters.
Most Underrated: Jonas Junland
HT: 6'2 WT: 198 lbs. Stats: 47GP 10-20-30 Pts.
A third round pick back in 2006, Junland has come a long way since his 41-game rookie year in the Swedish Elite League. Once described as a well rounded player who is not weak in any one particular way, Junland is now more likely to be talked about as a capable 2-way defenceman that has few weaknesses. In his AHL debut last season the Swede scored 13 goals and 31 points - much more productive than what was probably expected of him. It's interesting to note that Junland is way ahead of his pace established last year and made his NHL debut after a 1-game recall back in November. He's currently second on the AHL team in scoring and played in the AHL All-Star game with Eller, also scoring no points.
Buzz Worthy: Five St. Louis prospects were considered hot commodities prior to the CHL trade deadline on January 10th. As mentioned earlier, Alex Pietrangelo was dealt from Niagara to the Barrie Colts. Also in the OHL, forward James Livingston and Phil McRae joined the Plymouth Whalers in two separate deals. Livingston has collected 3 points in 8 games and McRae has potted 6 points. In the WHL, Tyler Shattock was picked up by the Calgary Hitmen from Kamloops and has already earned 10 points in 9 games. Finally, goalie Jake Allen was acquired by the Drummondville Voltigeurs but it's been a mix bag of success for him in his new uniform. Allen's goals against average has dropped, as one would expect when moving to a much stronger team, but at the same time his save percentage has dipped to .891...