Next wave of Blues prospects shows bright promise

News-DemocratJune 29, 2013 

While the St. Louis Blues have continued to assimilate their top prospects onto their NHL roster, the next wave is coming and has displayed plenty of promise.

Some of these names could end up with the Blues' new Chicago minor-league affiliate and will likely get a look in training camp:

Ty Rattie, winger

Age: 20

Size: 6-foot, 167 pounds

Drafted: 2nd round (32nd overall) 2011

Team: Portland, WHL

2012-13 stats: 48 goals, 110 points in 62 games, plus 20 goals and 36 points in 21 playoff games.

In the last two seasons, Rattie has piled up an incredible 105 goals and 231 points in 131 games with the Western Hockey Leagues Portland Winterhawks.

"He's an exciting player because his brain processes the game on the offensive side of the puck very quickly," said Bill Armstrong, the Blues' Director of Amateur Scouting. "He's really detailed in his game as far as working hard on the defensive side of the puck and he's made huge strides that way."

Armstrong knows that Rattie's off-the-charts numbers suggest something special. However, his size could be a concern in the NHL.

"He's got crazy numbers where he's scored the most playoff goals in the WHL of all time, (50)," Armstrong said. "With somebody with that type of offensive hockey sense, it takes some time to develop and his game has to translate into the NHL, so that's going to take a little bit of time with the strength and speed factor."

Jani Hakanpaa, defenseman

Age: 21

Size: 6-5, 218 pounds

Drafted: 4th round (104th overall) 2010

Teams: Finland Blues, Peoria, AHL

2012-13 stats: 3 goals, 9 points, 40 penalty minutes in 48 games.

The Blues believe they have quite a find in Hakanpaa, a large, mobile defenseman with plenty of upside. He finished last season with the Peoria Rivermen, his first season in North America.

"He's the kind of guy that flies a little bit under the radar because other guys get more attention," Armstrong said. "I'd put him on the (top prospect) board because he's a big man with a lot of effort. I'd keep my eye on him, there's a lot of people on staff that like him.

"He's played in the Finnish Elite League for a couple years now and has had some good seasons over there."

Jordan Binnington, goaltender

Age: 19

Size: 6-foot-2, 170 pounds

Drafted: 3rd round (88th overall) 2011

Team: Owen Sound, OHL

2012-13 stats: 32-12-6, 2.17 goals-against average, seven shutouts, .932 save percentage

The Blues drafted Binnington more on potential than anything back in 2011 and since then have been rewarded with excellence. He played for Tam Canada at the last World Junior Championships and is considered one of the top goaltending prospects in his age group.

He could see time with the Blues' new minor-league affiliate in Chicago this season depending on his progress.

"With goaltending when they're draft eligible sometimes they don't play a lot in the junior ranks so they're tricky to draft," Armstrong said. "There always seems to be some question marks. Where we really liked him was his long, lanky body type with a lot of room to grow."

Armstrong and several Blues scouts watched Binnington help lead Owen Sound to the 2011 Memorial Cup tourney, one of the top honors in Canada.

He was named the top goaltender at the event.

"He's playing in a national championship tournament and here's this kid's as cool as a cucumber and fluid in his motions where nothing rattled him," Armstrong said. "There's this young kid playing in net and he was just great. We were all convinced that he was going to be a good goaltender. It was just a little bit of luck that he falls on your plate."

Binnington earned Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year and Owen Sound MVP honors this season, posting seven shutouts.

Most teams are fairly patient with goaltending prospects. Jake Allen spent much of the past three seasons in minor-league Peoria after being drafted in the second round in 2008.

"You can't really be in a rush with these guys," Armstrong said.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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