The second day of the NHL draft on Wednesday seemed to drag on forever, starting at 10:30 a.m. in St. Louis and ending at close to 6 p.m. It was the kind of a day that scouts love.
“We don’t look at it as a long day,” said Tony Feltrin, the veteran scout who ran the draft for the Blues after the departure of Bill Armstrong to become general manager in Arizona. “It’s an exciting day when you’re a scout. Everybody’s anxious for getting their player’s name called out. Perhaps a little long on the clock but well worth the wait from a scout’s opinion.”
After the Blues chose left wing Jake Neighbours in the first round on Tuesday night, they added six players on Wednesday in rounds two through seven and finished with a balanced group of three forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. None of those seven players figure to be playing for the Blues any time soon, but that’s what Feltrin and the Blues expected.
“That’s the typical likelihood of the positions where we picked,” Feltrin said. “The player’s not going to walk in and play for the Blues tomorrow. They’re prospects for the future for the Blues.”
“We got a good balance for the Blues, good prospects,” Feltrin said. “I think we got character kids, kids with skill, kids with size, and lots of ability. I think we did better than expected or as good as expected and we’re certainly ecstatic about it.”
Only one of the players, third-round pick and all-name team member Leo Loof, is from outside of North America. Three of the picks are playing college hockey, the other three junior hockey in Canada.
One thing the Blues didn’t do at the draft was open up any salary cap space by trading players on the current roster for draft picks. Free agency starts on Friday and after a couple of trades of actual players by other teams early in the second round, all the trades after that involved swapping picks. The Blues are just as far under the salary cap on Thursday as they were on Monday, and if they are to sign pending unrestricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo they’ll have to find the necessary cap space at some other time.
The Blues started the day sitting idly. They had traded their second-round pick to Montreal at the deadline to acquire defenseman Marco Scandella, and while general manager Doug Armstrong had said they would consider trying to parlay their two third-round picks into a second-round pick, nothing happened. So it wasn’t until the 86th pick, late in the third round, that they got their chance, taking Dylan Peterson, who is playing at Boston University.
Peterson’s path to the third round was not standard. He was born in Northern California, near Sacramento, but at about four months moved with his family to Taiwan. (His father is a civil engineer.) He lived there till he was almost five when the family then moved to Calgary, which was where he started playing hockey. He was, at one point, fluent in Mandarin. “But then we moved back to Calgary,” he said, “my mom stopped putting me in classes and it’s gone. Not a lick anymore.”
From Calgary, the family lived in Colorado for four years and then he went to Ottawa to play hockey. Even though he has spent more of his time in someplace other than the United States, he sees himself as an American and in 2018, he returned to America to enter USA Hockey’s national team development program in Plymouth, Michigan. Eighteen players with connections to the program were taken in the draft, of which Peterson was the ninth.
“The program is the best time of my life,” he said. “It was the best thing for me. It brought me from a youth hockey player going in to somebody who has a shot at playing professional hockey one day and I owe a lot to the coaches there.”
Peterson is 6-foot-4 and 192 pounds and has embraced a physical style of play. “I love Joe Thornton, he’s one of my favorite players growing up,” Peterson said, “but I’d say someone closer to how I play is someone like Blake Wheeler (of Winnipeg), a big strong power forward.”
The Blues had another pick two spots later and took Loof,
“I think I am a two-way defenseman, play the puck very well, play physical,” Loof said. “Make some good plays in the offensive zone as well. … I’m going to train hard every day and try to play in the NHL. I don’t know exactly when but I’m going to compete every day and train as hard as I can, so I hope someday I play for St. Louis.”
His twin brother, Linus, was also draft eligible and the two were watching together in Karlstad, Sweden, but Linus wasn’t chosen. Asked which one of them was better, Leo chose himself.
“He’s a forward and I’m a defenseman,” he said, “but I should say me.”
The Blues chose Tanner Dickinson, a speedy center from Ohio who is playing junior hockey in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in the fourth round. Dickinson used the stoppage in play starting in March to bulk up, eating five meals and two protein drinks per day to add 24 pounds. In the fifth round, they took a defenseman, Matthew Kessel, who is no relation to Phil Kessel but everyone always asks him. They closed out the draft with goalie Will Cranley and defenseman Noah Beck.
Two players with St. Louis connections were selected Wednesday. Center Chase Bradley, who went to Oakville High for two years before leaving to play junior hockey, was taken in the seventh round with the 203rd pick, coincidentally, a pick acquired from the Blues earlier on Wednesday. (The Blues got Detroit’s seventh-round pick next season in exchange.) Bradley will play with Sioux City of the USHL this season and then go to college at Northeastern. Jakub Dobes, a goalie from the Czech Republic who came to St. Louis and played two seasons with the AAA Blues and eight games with De Smet High, was chosen in the fifth round by Montreal with pick No. 136.
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