Thursday, November 23, 2006

Comparison of "Future 'Notes" Hot Lists to CSS Preliminary Rankings

Here are the criteria used by “Future ‘Notes” to winnow through the extensive lists of draft-eligible players in order to create the “Hot Lists” for the Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia, and Sweden.


1. Bigger is better than smaller.
2. Higher scoring totals are better than lower scoring totals.
3. Younger is better than older.
4. Higher plus/minus is better than lower.

Also, a center or defenseman with a right-handed shot was more likely to be chosen over a left-hander with comparable size or statistics.

The criteria were not necessarily applied in this order, so with the caveat that we don’t have the opportunity to see these players perform live, there were a number of instances where a bigger player with lesser scoring totals was chosen for the “Hot List” over smaller players with higher numbers, or where a younger player with a higher plus/minus was chosen over an older player with better scoring numbers.

Without further ado, then, here’s a look at how the “Future ‘Notes” Hot Lists compared to the Preliminary Rankings that NHL Central Scouting just put out.

Czech Republic: “Future ‘Notes” identified five of the 25 skaters on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings (20%), including the CSS top Czech prospect, Vladimir Ruzicka (Slavia Praha, C/L, 6-01, 180). “Future ‘Notes” also identified three of the four Czech goaltenders on the CSS listing, including the number one (Tomas Vosvrda, Vitkovice, G/L, 6-03, 172) and number two (Marek Benda, Karlovy Vary, G/L, 5-11, 167).

Ruzicka’s primary assets are his hands, as in his ability to create offense, to make nifty passes, and win faceoffs. His downside is a lack of defensive awareness, but that’s a correctable flaw. Vosvrda, one of the youngest players who will be eligible for the 2007 draft (born 12 Sep 1989), is 12-6-0 with a 3.29 GAA and 90.15% save percentage for Vitkovice as of 22 November 2006.

Radim Ostrcil (Vsetin, D/L, 5-11, 198) was the highest-ranked player by CSS (2nd Czech) to not make the “Future ‘Notes” Hot List for the Czechs. He has offensive upside (2-5-7, plus-3, 41 PIM in 10 games as of 22 November), but is only an average skater and can be beaten one-on-one.

Overall, Central Scouting’s Czech list was composed of 12 defensemen (12/25 = 48%), four centers (4/25 = 16%), and nine wings (9/25 = 36%). The “Future ‘Notes” Hot List was made up of nine defensemen (9/30 = 30%), three centers (3/30 = 10%), four wings (4/30 = 13.33%), and 14 “forwards” (14/30 = 46.67%).

There were no Czech players ranked by Central Scouting who were not first-time draft eligible (born after 15 September 1988). "Future 'Notes" Czech Hot List included nine players who were draft-eligible in 2006, including D Marek Troncinsky, the 55th-ranked European player by CSS in 2006.

Finland: “Future ‘Notes” identified 12 of the 28 skaters on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings (42.86%) and six of the top 11 skaters on the CSS list, including the CSS top Finnish prospect, Harri Ilvonen (Tappara, D/L, 6-03, 196) and the number two Finn (Lassi Kokkala, TPS Turku, C/L, 6-01, 189). “Future ‘Notes” also found the only Finnish goaltender on the CSS listing, Juha Metsola (Ilves, G/L, 5-07, 150).

Ilvonen has good size, and his offensive upside is evident in his 5-11-16 numbers through 17 games in the Finnish junior circuit. He’s also a plus-1, and has 14 minutes in penalty time (all minors). Metsola, like the other first-time draft-eligible Finnish goalies on our Hot List, is small at 5-07, 150, and his numbers are only average (6 GP, 2-3-0, 2.76 GAA, 89.76% save percentage) while playing behind Jarno Laitinen, who’s almost a full year older than Metsola.

The best draft-eligible goalie in Finland might just be a player who’s looking at his last go-round of draft eligibility. Antti Härmä of Blues Espoo is a January 1987 birthdate who was passed over in 2005 and 2006. He’s bigger than Metsola at 5-11, 185 pounds, and his numbers this year have been outstanding (18 GP, 12-3-0, 1.59 GAA, 93.32% save percentage).

Niklas Lucenius (Tappara, C/L, 6-00, 187) was the highest-ranked player by CSS (3rd Finn) to not make the “Future ‘Notes” Hot List for the Finns. He has offensive upside (7-4-11, plus-5, 14 PIM in 10 games as of 22 November) and is an excellent puckhandler, but his skating is suspect and his game can be too one-dimensional.

Overall, Central Scouting’s Finnish file was composed of 12 defensemen (12/28 = 42.86%), five centers (5/28 = 17.87%), and 11 wings (9/25 = 39.27%). The “Future ‘Notes” Hot List was made up of 12 defensemen (9/30 = 30%), no centers, five wings (5/30 = 16.67%), and 13 “forwards” (13/30 = 43.33%).

There were four Finnish players ranked by Central Scouting who were not first-time draft eligible; “Future Notes” had 12 players on the Finnish Hot List who were born before September 15, 1988. There were two players common to both lists; Nico Aaltonen of Lukko, and Jonne Virtanen of Sai Pa.

Slovakia: “Future ‘Notes” identified 13 of the 20 skaters on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings (65%), and three of the top four skaters on the CSS list, including the CSS top Slovak prospect, Juraj Mikus (Dukla Trencin, D/L, 6-03, 176) and the number three Slovak (Ondrej Rusnak, Bratislava, W/L, 6-03, 176). “Future ‘Notes” also identified all three of the Slovak goaltenders who made the CSS listing, beginning with the top Slovak goalie in this age group, Tomas Hiadlovsky (Dukla Trencin, G/L, 6-01, 163).

Mikus has an NHL-sized frame, although some filling out may be necessary, and he seems to be especially proficient on the power play. Through 22 November, he was 3-11-14 in 21 games played, and 1-9-10 on the power play. He also has a shorthanded goal.

Rusnak is a smart player who has a presence in all three zones on the ice, but has some work to do with his skating. In 18 games played as of 22 November, Rusnak is a solid 6-10-16 with a plus-10 and 18 PIM. He contributes at even strength and on special teams, with two game-winners, two PPG, and a shorthanded goal.

In 12 games played through November 22, Hiadlovsky is 8-3-0 with two shutouts, a 2.08 GAA, and 92.14% save percentage. He's a poised and confident goaltender who stays square to the shooter and plays his angles well. Look for Hiadlovsky to represent the Slovaks in the U-18 tournament this year, as he did last season.

Martin Dulak (Spisska Nova Ves, D/L, 6-00, 183) was the highest-ranked player by CSS (2nd Slovak) to not make the “Future ‘Notes” Hot List. His offensive upside is limited, but he does play a solid physical game despite only average size (3-5-8, plus-18, 52 PIM in 21 games as of 22 November). Steady and unspectacular, Dulak is projected as a stay-at-home defensive defenseman.

Overall, Central Scouting’s Slovak list was composed of eight defensemen (8/20 = 40%), two centers (2/20 = 10%), and 10 wings (10/20 = 50%). The “Future ‘Notes” Hot List was made up of 11 defensemen (11/30 = 36.67%), six centers (6/30 = 20%), eight wings (8/30 = 26.67%), and five “forwards” (5/30 = 16.66%).

There were no Slovak players ranked by Central Scouting who were not first-time draft eligible; “Future Notes” had five players on the Slovak Hot List who were born before September 15, 1988, including the top three scorers in the Slovak junior league as of 22 November 2006: Richard Smotrila (Spisska Nova Ves, 03-14-88, LW/R, 5-11, 165, 23 GP, 16-20-36, 18 PIM, plus-16), Matej Cesik (Banska Bystrica, 06-26-88, F/L, 6-02, 176, 24 GP, 20-13-33, 65 PIM, plus-22) and Radovan Hubler (Spisska Nova Ves, 06-25-88, RW/L, 6-02, 183, 24 GP, 15-15-30, 34 PIM, plus-15).

Sweden: “Future ‘Notes” identified eight of the 30 skaters on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings (26.67%), and four of the top five skaters on the CSS list, including the CSS top Swedish prospect, Mikael Backlund (Västerås, C/L, 6-00, 194) and the number two Swede, Joakim Andersson (Frölunda, C/L, 6-02, 198). “Future ‘Notes” also identified both of the Swedish goaltenders who made the CSS listing, Mark Owuya (Djurgården, G/L, 6-01, 191) and Christian Engstrand (Linköping, G/L, 5-11, 191).

Central Scouting ranked twelve Swedish players on this season's Preliminary Rankings who were draft-eligible in 2006, with D Kristofer Berglund (69th European in 2006) the highest-ranking repeater (6th Swede 2007 Preliminary). The "Future 'Notes" Hot List was geared towards first-time draft-eligible players, with only three 2006-eligible players ranked (none of whom appeared on the CSS listing). "Future 'Notes" correctly identified eight of the 18 first-time draft-eligible players on the Swedish compilation, a 44.44% percentage. Also, "Future 'Notes" identified the top Danish-born player on the CSS listing, Lars Eller (20 GP, 9-17-26, 24 PIM, plus 13), who is Andersson's teammate with Frölunda.

Backlund (1-2-3, 12 PIM, plus-1 in 11 GP with Västerås' Allsvenskan squad) has been ranked among the top 2007-eligible players since late last season, and is a solid two-way player with good offensive instincts and decent skating ability. His main weakness is a tendency to play more often outside of the main traffic areas, and he is inconsistent in his willingness to play along the boards.

Andersson (20 GP, 9-11-20, 38 PIM, plus-17) is a very good skater for a big man, and a playmaker with the ability to make crisp tape-to-tape passes. He is willing to help out defensively, but needs to improve his defensive awareness and intensity.

Owuya (5 GP, 0.60 GAA, 95.77% save percentage, three shutouts) has seen limited action behind Islanders' draftee Stefan Ridderwall, but is a butterfly goaltender with good fundamentals and focus, a good glove hand, and decent puckhandling ability.

Engstrand (15 GP, 1.66 GAA, 93.06% save percentage, two shutouts) is among the leaders in every measured statistical category in the J-20 Superelit league this year.

Niklas Torp, who has yet to appear for HV-71 this season, was the highest-ranked player by CSS (3rd Swede) to not make the “Future ‘Notes” Hot List. The 5-11, 191-pound left-shooting defenseman was 4-2-6 with 57 PIM in 13 games played with HV-71's U-18 squad last season, and 0-0-0 2with 34 PIM in seven games at the U-20 level.

Overall, Central Scouting’s Swedish list was composed of 13 defensemen (13/30 = 43.33%), six centers (6/30 = 20%), three wings (3/30 = 10%), and eight "forwards" (8/30 = 26.67%). The “Future ‘Notes” Hot List was made up of 11 defensemen (11/30 = 36.67%), eight centers (8/30 = 26.66%), and 11 wings (11/30 = 36.67%).

As noted above, Central Scouting ranked 12 Swedish players who were not first-time draft eligible, while “Future Notes” had three players on the Swedish Hot List who were born before September 15, 1988 -- Henrik Eriksson (HV-71, 02-07-88, RW/R, 5-11, 183, 18 GP, 12-10-22, 14 PIM, plus-9), David Laudius (Rögle, 08-05-88, LW/L, 6-00, 207, 23 GP, 14-13-27, 22 PIM, plus-8), and Viktor Sundström (Malmö, 08-12-88, RW/R, 6-01, 198, 21 GP, 3-3-6, 16 PIM, plus-4).

Two of the goaltenders on the "Future 'Notes" list were also 2006-eligible -- Jesper Backlund (Timrå, 04-16-88, G/L, 6-01, 165, 13 GP, 1.65 GAA, 92.34% save percentage, no shutouts) and Anders Lindbåck (Brynäs, 05-03-88, G/L, 6-05, 185, 19 GP, 1.60 GAA, 92.81% save percentage, five shutouts).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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

(originally published November 12, 2006)

Since yesterday was Veteran's Day, it seems appropriate that tonight's report includes one of the oldest and longest-serving prospects in the Blues' system. In all, we have three AHL players and two junior forwards on tonight's menu. All personal data (height, weight, etc.) is taken from the Blues’ website, and all statistics are as of Friday, November 10.

Ryan Ramsay, C, shoots L, 5’11, 200, born 05-18-83. Signed as a free agent by the Blues in August of 2005 after a productive Ontario League junior career (283 points in 295 games over five seasons), Ramsay has developed into a top-notch grinder and sparkplug for the Blues in this, his third pro season. Last year, Ramsay set AHL career highs last year with 52 games played, 14 goals and 25 points, and also managed to tear up the ECHL for 17 games mid-season with Alaska (17 GP, 8-12-20, 30 PM). This season, the pride of Ajax, Ontario has a pair of goals in 11 games, to go with a minus-1 and 27 minutes in the sin bin.

Ryan Reaves, RW, shoots R, 6’02, 215, born 01-20-87. Like the veterans that we honored yesterday, and all year 'round, Ryan Reaves is a leader by example for the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), where he wears an "A" and boldly goes where few men are willing to go on the ice. Reaves caught fire in mid-October, with a stretch of three consecutive games from 10/14 through 10/20 in which he scored a pair of goals in each game. He hasn't found the back of the net since then, but he has continued to stand up for his mates and play a physical, power forward style. In 20 games for the Wheat Kings thus far, Reaves has put up six goals and 14 points, with a plus-7 and 36 PIM, 12 of which came in Brandon's opening game (a fight, a slashing minor, and a major for checking from behind).

Andrew Sackrison, C, shoots L, 6’01, 178, born 11-12-87. Drafted by the Blues with the 124th overall selection in last June's Entry Draft, the skilled, swift-skating Minnesota native adds significant scoring potential to the Blues' system. Skating for his hometown St. Louis Park HS club last year, Sackrison lit up goaltenders in his league to the tune of 41 goals in 25 games. He attended the Blues' Prospect Camp this past summer, and is currently playing for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, where he's 1-6-7 with a minus-1 and seven PIM in ten games thus far. Sackrison will attend Minnesota State-Mankato, David Backes' alma mater, next season.

Marek Schwarz, G, catches R, 6’00, 180, born 04-01-86. Schwarz was the first member of the Blues' Recent First Round Picks Club, joining the organization with the 17th overall pick in 2004. His availability at that stage of the draft was something of a pleasant surprise for the Blues, and his presence in the organization was the kick-start needed to propel the system to a new level of prominence in the NHL. Born and raised in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, Schwarz has been a prominent player on Czech junior teams for the last several years. In 2005 he backstopped his home country to a bronze medal in the U-20 World Junior Championships held in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 2004, Schwarz was the top goaltender in the U-18 tournament, and led the Czechs to a bronze medal; he also played for the U-20 team at that level's World Junior Championship in Finland. Though not yet 21 years old, Schwarz already has extensive experience in the Czech elite league, and brings his skills to Peoria this year, where he's currently 4-1-0 with a 2.81 GAA and 90.2% save percentage in six games played.

Peter Sejna, LW, shoots L, 5’11, 198, born 10-05-79. Sejna, from Liptovsky Mikulas in Slovakia, recently celebrated his 27th birthday and the start of his fifth season in the Blues' organization. His first game in the organization was, of course, the "Patrick Roy game" in April of 2003, where he scored a highlight-reel goal against the sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Sejna has been trying ever since to live up to the high expectations set by that single, shining moment. As he showed then, and has shown in his college and AHL career, Sejna has the instincts and hands of a natural goal-scorer. What he seems to be lacking is the will to pay the price to put those instincts and hands to work at the NHL level. Until he gets that fire lit in his belly, if he ever does, he'll be a first-line AHL player and little else. Currently, Sejna is 3-3-6 in 11 games for Peoria, with 6 PIM and a team-worst minus-7.

In our next installment, we'll be looking at some more Russians, as well as one of the top young players in Sweden and a pair of Americans. 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.

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

(originally published November 9, 2006)

"D" is the fourth letter of the alphabet, so it's fitting that this fourth installment of our annual look at the Blues’ system is heavy on defense prospects. In all, we have three AHL players, two Russians, a collegian, and a high school senior on tonight's menu. All personal data (height, weight, etc.) is taken from the Blues’ website, and all statistics are as of Wednesday, November 8.

Aaron Mackenzie, D, shoots L, 6’00, 190, born 03-07-81. The Terrace Bay, Ontario native isn't the biggest or the fastest guy out there, but he has heart and leadership qualities that take a back seat to few in the Blues organization. What's more, he plays the kind of physical hard-hitting game that would be expected from a player four inches taller and thirty pounds heavier. Mackenzie finished a four-year career at Denver University with 19 goals, 54 assists, and 164 PIM in 157 games, and was the Pioneers' MVP and Best Defenseman, and WCHA co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He signed with the Blues as a free agent, and since turning pro in 2003-04, has become a fixture in the Blues' organizational defense corps. He's never been a big offensive contributor (0-2-2 with 26 PIM in 12 games this year), but his hard-nosed, no-nonsense game is bound to get him a cup of coffee soon at the NHL level if injuries continue to plague the Blues on defense.

Matthew McCollem, LW, shoots L, 6’00, 185, born 05-06-88. Taken in the sixth round (154th overall) by the Blues last summer, the Somerville, Massachusetts product will be playing his senior year at Belmont Hill School before moving on to Harvard for the 2007-08 campaign. Like Mackenzie, McCollem isn't the biggest player around, but loves to play a physical game, and his 48 PIM in 28 high-school games last year bears that out. He can also score a little, with 17 goals and 28 points last season. McCollem took part in the Blues' Prospect Camp in July, and impressed many observers with his speed, competitiveness, grit, and nose for the net. A little more growth and development, and the Blues could have another late-round steal on their hands.

Tomas Mojzis, D, shoots L, 6’00, 195, born 05-02-82. Acquired from Vancouver at last season's trade deadline, Mojzis was specifically requested by the Blues as a return for veteran Eric Weinrich. The lanky Czech has had a cup of coffee in the NHL, with Vancouver, and was playing well early in the pre-season. A bad game vs. the hated Blackhawks, however, wrote Mojzis' ticket to Peoria this year, where he will most likely remain until he regains the offensive touch he displayed in junior. He was 21-49-70 with 126 PIM in his last year of junior, and has been 20-53-73 with 154 PIM in 185 career AHL games over the three seasons prior to this one. Currently, Mojzis is 0-2-2 with a minus-3 and 24 PIM in 11 games for Peoria.

Nikita Nikitin, D, shoots L, 6’03, 178, born 06-16-86. Nikitin has come up in the system of Siberian club Avangard Omsk, and he's been a regular there since his draft year in 2004. Never a big goal scorer, Nikitin does have a good, hard shot, and that's contributed to his career high five assists so far this year. Long and lean at six-three, 178 pounds, Nikitin definitely needs to add some bulk; he does, however, like to throw around what height he has, as his 44 PIM in 21 games this season, and 70 in 76 career RSL games, will attest. Jarmo Kekalainen and Ville Siren were both high on Nikitin when he was drafted, so there's a better-than-even chance they'll lead an effort to get him signed and in Peoria next season.

T.J. Oshie, C, shoots R, 5’11, 181, born 12-23-86. In the last three seasons, the Blues have used their four first-round picks to reload their system with a quality prospect at every position. In 2006, the Blues used two picks to select a big center at 25th overall and a franchise defenseman at first overall. In 2005, the Blues went "off the board" with the 24th overall pick and selected an undersized, little-known forward from a small Minnesota high school. The "experts" scratched their heads then, but after T.J Oshie's dominant freshman season with WCHA powerhouse North Dakota (24-21-45, 33 PIM in 44 games), no one's wondering any more. This year, Oshie's having a bit of a sophomore slump, but is still among the Fighting Sioux' scoring leaders with 2-6-8 totals and four PIM in 10 games thus far.

Peoria Rivermen. The Blues’ primary affiliate and priority destination for prospect development, the Rivermen have been associated with the Blues for over two decades in the International League, ECHL, and now the American League.

Andrei Pervyshin, D, shoots L, 5’09, 165, born 02-02-85. Chosen by the Blues with the 253rd overall pick in 2003, Pervyshin has loads of talent and hockey sense. If he were three inches taller and thirty pounds heavier, the Blues would have moved heaven and earth to get him to North America by now. As it is, his play in the Russian Superleague over the last three seasons (7-13-20, plus-27, 56 PIM in 121 games) would probably earn him at least a spot in Peoria, but Pervyshin seems to have little interest in being a small fish in a big pond. He's 4-3-7 with a plus-13 and 24 PIM in 21 games this year with Ak Bars Kazan.

Roman Pola'k, D, shoots R, 6’01, 198, born 04-28-86. The Ostrava, Czech Republic native has quietly shot up the Blues' depth chart on defense, to the point where he opened his rookie pro season on the Blues' opening night lineup. His poise, physicality, and hockey sense have been praised by observers this year ever since an eye-opening Prospect Camp and performance at the Traverse City prospect tournament. Never a big offensive contributor (no points, no PIM, minus-1 in six games with the Blues), Pola'k has recently been sent down to Peoria where he will get quality minutes instead of the third-pairing time he was getting in St. Louis. He has become a very big part of a very bright future on defense for the Blues.

In our next installment, we'll be looking at some more Russians and AHLers, as well as forwards from the USHL and WHL, and the former first-rounder who may well be the Blues' goaltender of the future. 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.

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

(originally published November 4, 2006)

All aboard the Trans-Europe Express for tonight's installment of our annual look at the Blues’ system. We'll make stops in Linköping, Vitkovice and Severstal tonight before finishing up in Peoria. All personal data (height, weight, etc.) is taken from the Blues’ website, and all statistics are as of Thursday, November 2.

Jonas Junland, D, shoots L, 6’02, 198, born 11-15-87. The native of Linköping, Sweden was named Top Defenseman at the 2006 World Under-18 Tournament last season, and led the J20 Superelit (Swedish major junior) in defenseman scoring last year (17-23-40, 44 PIM in 32 games) despite missing the last two months of the season due to a shoulder injury. Junland reported to the Prospect Camp in July showing no ill effects from the injury, and after returning to Sweden for this season, quickly showed he's outgrown the junior league by posting 5-5-10 totals, with a plus-6 and 22 PIM, in only seven games with his hometown team. He's been playing recently for Linköping's senior squad in the SEL, and hasn't looked out of place with 0-2-2 totals, a plus-2, and 12 PIM in 13 games thus far. The 64th overall pick in 2006 could well be the dynamic offensive defenseman the Blues have long been looking to add to their system.

Tomas Kana, C, shoots R, 6’00, 202, born 11-29-87. Taken in the second round (31st overall) by the Blues in 2006, the native of Opava, Czech Republic remains a favorite of the "Game Time" prospect department despite the unexpected about-face he made this summer. Kana had reported to the Blues' Prospect Camp, and looked to be all set to report to Owen Sound of the OHL, the team that drafted him sixth overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. Instead, the gritty, two-way center is back in Vitkovice for another season (3-2-5 with 24 PIM in 20 games so far), advising the Blues through his agent that he had signed a contract with the Czech Extraliga club. The word is that the Blues don't consider his contract to be an insurmountable obstacle, and when Kana plays for the Czechs in the World Juniors in January, as he likely will, the Blues can speak with him personally and get a handle on his intentions for the near future.

Magnus Kahnberg, LW, shoots R, 6’02, 196, born 02-25-80. Acquired from Carolina at last year's trade deadline, in the Doug Weight loan, Kahnberg brings his nose for the net from the Swedish Elite League to Peoria for the 2006-07 campaign. In six full seasons with Frölunda of the Swedish Elite League, Kahnberg lit the lamp 102 times in 295 games, including a league-high 33 goals in 2003-04. He was also a plus-45 over the last three seasons in Sweden, but neither that stat nor the goal-scoring touch seem to have been packed in his suitcase when he came to Peoria. In ten games with the Rivermen, Kahnberg is 1-4-5 with 4 PIM and a minus-6. He has had a good attitude about starting his North American career in the AHL, and if he keeps working hard, his skill level merits an NHL shot at some point during this season.

D.J. King, LW, shoots L, 6’03, 230, born 01-27-84. After getting only about three minutes of ice time per game in his first six NHL appearances, the big winger from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan was reassigned to Peoria on October 23rd. Since then, King has appeared in two games for the Rivermen, racking up no points and nine minutes in the penalty box. The penalty box has been a familiar destination for King in his young pro career, with 338 minutes in two AHL seasons accumulated prior to this year. He has been effective as a role player in the AHL, with a respectable 11 goals and 25 points in his two pro seasons, but it's his size, toughness, and ability to use his fists that will get him a full-time job in the NHL. If he can continue to develop the ability to chip in the odd goal, that's what will keep him there.

Nikolai Lemtyugov, RW, shoots L, 6’00, 184, born 01-15-86. After coming up in the system of CSKA Moscow, and playing the last two years in the RSL for that team, the Blues' seventh-round pick (219th overall) in 2005 is playing for Severstal Cherepovets this season. The Miass, Russia native has 3-2-5 totals, with a plus-5 and 18 PIM in 18 games for Cherepovets thus far, and caught the attention of North American fans in the 2005 Canada/Russia Challenge with a goal, an assist, and 26 PIM in six games. He followed up that performance with a strong showing in the World Juniors last season, where he was 4-1-5 with a plus-4 mark in six games for Team Russia. A strong skater with a hard-nosed attitude, Lemtyugov is a player that the Blues will certainly make a strong effort to sign in the coming off-season.

Doug Lynch, D, shoots L, 6’03, 214, born 04-04-83. Acquired from Edmonton in the infamous Chris Pronger trade, Lynch has developed into a solid stay-at-home blueliner with strong leadership ability. As a rookie with the Oiler organization in 2003-04, Lynch put up 11-25-36 numbers with a plus-10 mark and 77 PIM in 74 AHL games. He has never come back to those kinds of numbers on offense, but the potential is still there, and at age 23, he has time on his side for a little while longer. Lynch appeared in 29 games for Peoria last season, and only eight regular-season games for Alaska of the ECHL, but he was a key component of Alaska's march through the Kelly Cup playoffs. A steadying influence on a young defense, Lynch was 0-4-4 with 10 PIM in 22 games as the Aces captured the ECHL championship. Currently, Lynch is 0-1-1 with a minus-1 and 17 PIM in nine games for Peoria.

Konstantin Barulin update: The "Game Time" prospect department has finally located a website that has updated Russian Superleague stats. According to Russian Hockey Digest (, Barulin has played three games (129:05) with Khimik Voskresensk, and has allowed four goals on 54 shots against for a sterling 1.86 GAA and 92.6% save percentage.

In our next installment, we'll be looking at some more Russians and AHLers, as well as possibly the Blues' top offensive prospect. 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.

"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.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

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

[originally published October 30, 2006)

It’s time once again for our annual look at the Blues’ entire prospect development system, from one end of the alphabet to the other. The starting point (Juhamatti Aaltonen) and ending point (Konstantin Zakharov) are the same this season as last, but there have been quite a number of changes in the middle.

This installment is brought to you by the letter "B," as no fewer than eight of the prospects we’ll be looking at tonight have names beginning with that letter; five of those are goaltenders. All personal data (height, weight, etc.) is taken from the Blues’ website, and all statistics are as of Saturday, October 28.

Juhamatti Aaltonen, RW, shoots R, 5’11, 163, born 06-04-85. Taken in the ninth round by the Blues in 2003, the native of Ii, Finland has begun to look like a true steal at that point of the draft. The 21-year-old is in his second year as a regular in the SM-Liiga (Finnish elite league), and has put up 4-6-10 totals with a plus-2 mark and 14 PIM in 18 games with Oulu Kärpät thus far. Aaltonen’s skating and skill set make him a player that the Blues will likely try very hard to sign in the summer of 2007.

Alaska Aces. The Aces are the Blues’ East Coast League (ECHL) affiliate. Coach Davis Payne’s squad was the 2005-06 Kelly Cup champions, with Blues’ prospects Chris Beckford-Tseu and Doug Lynch playing big roles in Alaska’s march through the playoffs.

Viktor Alexandrov, RW, shoots L, 5’11, 183, born 12-28-85. Alexandrov is a highly-skilled player who has been a regular in the Russian Superleague since age 17. He is the son of former Soviet standout Boris Alexandrov, and the Aqtobe, Kazakhstan native has already nearly equaled last year’s point totals with a 1-8-9 mark (to go along with 14 PIM) in 15 games for SKA St. Petersburg.

Jason Bacashihua, G, catches L, 5’11, 175, born 09-20-82. The first of five goaltending prospects in tonight’s report, Bacashihua is a former first-round pick of the Dallas Stars (2001) and is a native of Garden City, Michigan. A quick and agile goaltender who can steal a game with an acrobatic save at a key moment, Bacashihua was recently assigned to Peoria in order to get some more playing time. His numbers there aren’t great at first glance (0-2-1, 2.95 GAA, 88.8% save percentage in three games), but time is still on the 24-year-old’s side at this point.

UPDATE: And it isn't pretty. Bacashihua was torched 7-1 by Houston on Saturday night (October 28, 2006), making 28 saves on 35 shots against. Yikes...

David Backes, RW, shoots R, 6’02, 200, born 05-01-84. The Minneapolis product left college after completing his junior season last year, and had an auspicious debut with Peoria to finish off the 2005-06 season. This year, the budding power forward is leading the Rivermen in goals with four, and has five points, a plus-1 mark, and 6 PIM in nine games. Loaded with native intelligence, leadership ability and hockey sense, Backes has worked to develop his skating, which was considered the only weak point in his game.

Konstantin Barulin, G, catches L, 6’02, 180, born 09-04-84. Since being chosen by the Blues with the 84th overall pick in 2003, Barulin has teased the team’s staff and fans alike with his talent, but the lack of news from Russian sources on Barulin’s play and intentions makes it difficult to get a read on him. He is under contract to Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian Superleague, but their website shows no statistics for him as of October 28, and shows him having played one game for a Russian squad that is competing in various continental tournaments.

Chris Beckford-Tseu, G, catches L, 6’02, 201, born 06-22-84. Known around the Blues’ Internet message boards as "The Hyphenator," the Richmond Hill, Ontario native may find himself a victim of the numbers game this season, as the Blues’ goaltending prospect stable is filled to overflowing. After a spectacular season with Alaska last year, Beckford-Tseu was looking to get the bulk of playing time at AHL Peoria this year. The assignment of Bacashihua, and the emergence of Marek Schwarz, however, has left Beckford-Tseu with nowhere to play but back in Alaska for the time being.

Reto Berra, G, catches L, 6’04, 189, born 01-03-87. Eligible for the NHL Entry Draft in 2005, but not chosen, Berra was taken by the Blues with their fourth-round selection (106th overall) in 2006. The top Swiss goaltender in his age group, Berra is a mature and focused competitor, technically sound with a quick glove, and hard to beat down low. He's currently riding the bench in Zurich behind Finnish veteran Ari Sulander, and the most likely scenario is that he'll go to Zurich's "B" team for more playing time when their season starts next week.

Patrik Berglund, C, shoots L, 6'04, 187, born 06-02-88. The Blues liked Berglund well enough to trade up for him at the 2006 Entry Draft, sending their 30th and 77th overall picks to New Jersey for the right to take the big center at 25th overall. He played most of his draft year on the Allsvenskan (Swedish division II) team in his hometown of Västerås, and is currently their scoring leader with 6-5-11 totals and 12 PIM in 11 games. Berglund plans to play another two years in Sweden, but the Blues have until the summer of 2008 to get him signed.

Michal Birner, LW, shoots L, 6'00, 183, born 03-02-86. Another personal favorite of the "Game Time" prospects department, the native of Litomerice, Czech Republic is a gritty, hard-working player who also has a fairly high skill level. After a solid 2005-06 season in major junior (31-54-85, 91 PIM in 60 games for Saginaw), Birner has brought his game to Peoria, where he's currently 1-1-2 in five games. His goal was a game-winner vs. San Antonio during the season-opening home stand.

Ben Bishop, G, catches L, 6'05, 202, born 11-21-86. Depending on what source you believe, Bishop is either 6'05 or 6'07. Either way, he's huge, and is playing huge this year for the top-ranked University of Maine Black Bears. The Chaminade HS product is undefeated in five starts, and boasts a glittering 1.49 GAA and 94.4% save percentage. He first came to prominence with a phenomenal showing in Kelly Chase's charity game in 2005, and he's climbing the Blues' goaltending depth chart like King Kong.

In the next issue of "Game Time," we'll continue our "A to Z" review of the organization, staring with Jon DiSalvatore. 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.