Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Game Time" -- The System From Aaltonen to Zakharov, Part Two

(originally published November 2, 2006)

Continuing with our annual look at the Blues’ entire prospect development system, we have three AHL players, three Western League (major junior) players, two Swedes, and a collegian on tonight's menu. All personal data (height, weight, etc.) is taken from the Blues’ website, and all statistics are as of Tuesday, October 31.

Jon DiSalvatore, RW, shoots R, 6’01, 200, born 03-30-81. Acquired by the Blues as a free agent (from San Jose) in 2004, DiSalvatore has become a fixture at the top of the Blues' farm club scoring leader boards. He reached career highs in goals (22), assists (45), and points (67) last season, and is currently second on the Rivermen with 4-5-9 totals, a plus-3, and 10 PIM in 10 games. The native of Bangor, Maine and Providence College product got a five-game cup of coffee with the Blues last year, and seems poised to make an appearance on the NHL roster again this year.

Nicholas Drazenovic, C, shoots L, 6’00, 172, born 01-14-87. Recently selected to compete for Team WHL in the 2006 Canada/Russia Challenge, Drazenovic has a lot of things going for him. He's an excellent skater with a scorer's touch (career high 30-33-63 totals last year), and his speed makes him an effective forechecker in the Jamal Mayers mold. Drazenovic could stand to bulk up a little, however, and his scoring touch failed him in last year's playoffs for Prince George, where he was held pointless with a minus-6 mark in five games. He's struggling a little offensively, and in the plus/minus area, again this year, with 1-4-5 totals and a minus-6 in 10 games.

Zack FitzGerald, D, shoots L, 6’02, 210, born 06-16-85. The native of Two Harbors, Minnesota, is not an offensive powerhouse by any means... but he certainly qualifies as a physical one. A punishing hitter and willing scrapper, FitzGerald has no points in 10 games for Peoria this year, but leads the club with 36 minutes in the sin bin. As a rookie last year, he spilt time between Alaska (ECHL) and Peoria, and racked up four points and 125 penalty minutes in only 25 games played at both levels. There's still a need to develop some consistency, but his physical play should get him a look at the NHL level before too much more time passes.

David Fredriksson, RW, shoots L, 6’02, 216, born 10-04-85. A physical, hard-hitting Swede drafted in the seventh round (211th overall) by the Blues in 2004, Fredriksson is a long shot to make the NHL at this point. He has demonstrated some scoring ability (5 G, 9 points in 37 games last season) at the Swedish Elite level, but it's his grit and toughness that will get him a shot. Currently, Fredriksson is 0-1-1 in 10 games for an HV-71 squad that sits at .500 in the SEL with a 8-4-4 mark, and eyewitnesses report that he's not getting as much playing time as he did last year. A move to North America is a must in the very near future if Fredriksson hopes to ever see the NHL.

Mike Gauthier, D, shoots R, 6’03, 185, born 03-26-87. Long, lean, and lanky, you can add one more "l" word to Gauthier's resume... lion-hearted. The stay-at-home defender is gaining a reputation as a fighter in the double-tough Western League, and his offensive game is developing nicely as well. He's made his mark with 459 minutes in penalty time through 178 career WHL games (65 in 14 games this season), but he also set career scoring highs last year (4-8-12). This year, Gauthier's 1-4-5 mark through 14 games has him on pace to eclipse those numbers, and his solid showing at the July Rookie Camp leads to the conclusion that he'll be turning pro after this season.

Mike Glumac, RW, shoots R, 6’02, 200, born 04-05-80. Glumac's career to date is a testimonial to the value of hard work. After four solid but unspectacular college seasons at Miami of Ohio, Glumac turned pro with Pee Dee of the ECHL in 2002, and his 37-32-69 totals there got him a shot with the Blues' farm team in Worcester for 2003-04. That year, he led the Ice Cats in scoring with 28-26-54 totals in 80 games, and was a plus-14. An injury-plagued 2004-05 followed, but his 2003-04 numbers, and his tenacity, got him an NHL shot last year. He made the most of it with 7-5-12 totals and 33 PIM in 33 games, was one of the last cuts from the NHL roster after this year's training camp, and is currently 3-5-8 with a plus-1 and 30 PIM in 10 games for Peoria.

Alexander Hellström, D, shoots L, 6’02, 207, born 04-17-87. The native of Falun, Sweden was eligible for the NHL Entry Draft in 2005, but not chosen due to concerns about his skating and development. Those questions were answered to the satisfaction of the Blues' scouts, especially European scout Ville Siren, who noted that Hellström "competes like hell, every shift," and the Blues chose the stay-at-home blueliner with the 184th pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. This is Hellström's third season with the Allsvenskan (second division) club in Björklöven, and his two points (both assists) in ten games have doubled his Swedish career point totals to date. Hellström participated in the Blues' Rookie Camp in July, and further North American appearances seem likely in the near future.

Scott Jackson, D, shoots L, 6’04, 213, born 02-05-87. The second of the Blues' prospects to be named to Team WHL for the Canada/Russia Challenge games, Jackson is rebounding from what some considered a disappointing showing at the Blues' summer Prospect Camp, and in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. After setting career highs in assists (23,) points (26,) and PIM (48) last season, Jackson reported to the Prospect Camp in July and was unspectacular; not bad, certainly, but not outstanding, and definitely not looking like the Number Two defense prospect in the system. Back for his fourth year in Seattle, Jackson hasn't found the back of net as yet, but his six assists and 10 PIM in 13 games put him on pace to set new career high-water marks in those categories.

Erik Johnson, D, shoots R, 6’04, 222, born 03-21-88. Simply stated (to steal a line from John Hadley), The Franchise. The big kid known as "EJ" was the consensus choice for last year's first-overall pick, and the Blues were only too happy to add his talents to their growing and impressive stable of defense prospects. Johnson's presence in the system, in fact, is a large part of the reason why the Blues' developmental system, long maligned by the "experts," is now getting some long-overdue attention as one of the better organizations in the NHL. Johnson kept his word to the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota, and is currently enjoying an excellent freshman season (7 GP, 1-6-7, plus-7, 10 PIM) with the Gophers, with an eye towards playing in the NHL as early as next season.

In our next installment, we'll be looking at three Euros and three AHLers (one European). Until then, check out archived "Tomorrow's Blues" columns and other prospect-related content at, and remember... "If we do not prepare for ourselves the role of the hammer, there will be nothing left but that of the anvil." Auf wiedersehen.

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