Blues look forward with most of their draft picks

News-DemocratJune 29, 2014 

After grabbing three straight forwards to open the NHL draft, it was clear the St. Louis Blues were trying to boost their scoring and playmaking organizational stockpiles.

It started in the first round with Ontario Hockey League center Robby Fabbri and continued with a pair of Russian forwards from Moscow, Ivan Barbashev (second round, 33rd overall) and Maxim Letunov (second round, 52nd overall).

The Blues drafted eight forwards with their 10 picks, picking only one defenseman (Jake Walman in the third round) and one goaltender (Ville Husso) with the first of two picks in the fourth round).

"For what our needs were, this was a good year to have a forward draft," said Blues Amateur Scouting Director Bill Armstrong. "It was more heavily favored in forwards and we were able to replenish our cupboard with players we think fit our actual needs."

Some projected Barbachev (6-foot, 180 pounds) as a first-round pick and the Blues thought highly enough of him that they considered moving up in the draft to get him if he wasn't available.

"I think the Russian factor might have played into it for him," Armstrong said. "He was a late birthday too, which sometimes hurts. But for our purposes, we really liked him and were trying to be as patient as we could.

"He's a really, really good two-way player, somebody that plays extremely hard and plays that 200-foot game you look for."

Barbashev had 25 goals and 68 points in 48 games last season for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 6-foot, 181-pound forward possesses high-end offensive skills and also plays with a bit of a physical edge.

Two years ago, one of Barbashev's linemates and friends was Blues prospect Dmitrij Jaskin.

"They were very effective together and had some chemistry together," Armstrong said. "They're pretty good friends and that helps introduce him to our culture in St. Louis with the way we work out in the summer and how hard the kids train."

As the youngest player on Russia's bronze medal squad at the 2014 World Junior Championships, Barbashev had a goal and two points in seven games.

After the 2012-13 season, Barbashev made the QMJHL's All-Rookie Team when he racked up 18 goals and 62 points in 68 games.

* The Blues used their other second-round pick on Letunov.

Listed at 6-2 and 155 pounds, Letunov had 19 goals and 43 points in 60 games last season with Youngstown of the United States Hockey League. He is committed to play for Boston University.

"He came over and played in Dallas for two years, then played in the USHL and had a great year," Armstrong said. "He's a project, somebody that's got to add a lot of strength.

"He's got another year in the USHL and probably three more at Boston University. He's got his work cut out for him, but he has tremendous potential."

* The Blues' third-round pick was Walman (6-0, 175), the lone defenseman taken and a Providence College recruit. He had seven goals, 33 points and 87 penalty minutes in 43 games for Toronto in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

* With the fourth-round pick acquired from Toronto, the Blues picked up Husso from Finland.

As a rookie in Finland's pro league, Husso (6-3, 205) had a 1.99 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

He also was the backup goalie on Finland's gold-medal squad at the 2014 World Junior Championships.

"He played at the Elite League level and had the best numbers as a goaltender," Armstrong said. "He's made a lot of changes in his training and upped his fitness level. That's really made a difference for him."

* The Blues used their second fourth-round pick on University of North Dakota commitment Austin Poganski, a right-winger from St. Cloud, Minn. Poganski had 19 goals and 31 points in 55 games last season for Tri-City in the United States Hockey League.

* With their fifth-round pick the Blues selected 5-8, 172-pound right winger Jaedon Descheneau. Descheneau has racked up 74 goals and 176 points in 139 games the past two seasons with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.

* In the sixth round, the Blues drafted right winger Chandler Yakimowicz and left winger Samuel Blais. Yakimowicz had three goals and seven points in 33 games for London of the OHL, while Blais had four goals and 14 points in 25 games with Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

* Their seventh-round pick was 6-4 right winger Dwyer Tschantz, a Cornell recruit, who had 24 goals and 44 points in 53 games for Indiana in the USHL.

*Center Ryan MacInnis, the son of Blues Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis, went 43rd overall in the second round to the Arizona Coyotes.

* Dominic Turgeon, the son of former Blues center Pierre Turgeon, went to Detroit in the third round.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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