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Five St. Louis players chosen in first round of NHL draft

Five St. Louis players chosen in first round of NHL draft

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BUFFALO, N.Y. • Fifteen picks into the NHL Draft on Friday, St. Louis already had four players who had played their youth hockey there drafted. By way of comparison, that was the same number of players from Canada who were taken in the first 15 picks.

What was expected to be a banner night for St. Louis youth hockey more than lived up to its potential. St. Louis, which prior to Friday had never had a player taken in the first round, had five players go in the first 30. The evening started with Matthew Tkachuk going to Calgary with the sixth pick. Clayton Keller went one pick later to Arizona, and Logan Brown went 11th to Ottawa. Luke Kunin was taken 15th by Minnesota and then Trent Frederic, who was expected to go in the second round, was chosen by Boston with the 29th pick. They all played youth hockey for the AAA Blues at Hardee’s Iceplex in Chesterfield.

On a night when a record 12 American players were taken in the first round, it was St. Louis that was Hockeytown USA. The four players going so early was impressive.

“When you look at it, it’s insane,” Brown said. “That’s four guys from one city, one team. That’s probably more than a lot of countries. Other than (No. 1 pick) Auston Matthews, I don’t think there was another American picked in the top 15. It just shows how far St. Louis hockey has come. All of us are really proud of it.”

Tkachuk went two spots later than was generally expected, but he still has the distinction of being the highest St. Louis player ever selected.

“It was awesome, especially with my dad (former Blue Keith Tkachuk) and my mom and brother and sister ... it was so special,” Tkachuk said. “I told my brother to get a picture of it, so hopefully he got that. My mom, she was starting to cry and my dad, he was just saying how proud he was and how much he loved me. ... It’s a huge day for St. Louis hockey.”

As the seventh pick, Keller went higher than generally expected.

“I grew up playing on the same line and we had tons of success as younger kids, so it was awesome to see us picked back-to-back,” Keller said. “He’s a great friend of mine and I’m just really happy for him. It’s just something that you dream about and work so hard for. It’s awesome to finally get this feeling.”

Ottawa traded up a spot to be able to take Brown. Ottawa was a convenient spot for him. His father, former Blue Jeff Brown, is the coach of the junior team in Ottawa and Logan’s grandparents live nearby.

“It just puts the cherry on top, I guess,” Logan said. “Going to Ottawa in the summertime, it’s almost a second home. Words don’t really describe how I feel right now.”

Shortly after, Kunin, who just finished his freshman season at Wisconsin was drafted. Kunin said he will play one more year of college hockey before going pro. He was the only one of the four chosen by a Central Division team, meaning he might be skating against the Blues on a regular basis.

“That would be great games for me,” he said. “I’d be really excited to go into Scottrade and play.

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Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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