One feature that I would like to continue throughout the 2018-19 season is an outlook on changes and trends that are currently happening around the Central Division that can have an affect on the fortune of the St. Louis Blues. As important as it is to be aware of what is going on in our own locker room and our prospect pool, it is also necessary to be aware of our competition. Are we getting better? Worse? Falling behind or pulling ahead? Let’s take a look at the first round selections in the 2018 NHL Draft from the Central division to get an idea of just what we should be expecting to come.
*Please note, I have omitted the Nashville Predators (who did not pick until the fourth round) and the Winnipeg Jets as they did not have first round picks during the draft. The Jets traded their first round pick to St. Louis in the trade deadline deal that sent Paul Stastny to the division rival. Throughout the offseason, I will be looking into and informing on all teams from the Central.
St. Louis Blues – Dominik Bokk – RW
Let’s start with the important part – your St. Louis Blues. General Manager, Doug Armstrong traded up in the draft moving draft picks 29 and and 76 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for #25 to select forward, Dominik Bokk. The German forward has taken comparison’s to fellow countryman, Leon Draisaitl, and is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2018 Draft. When asked about himself at the scouting combine, he stated: “I’m a skilled forward, I look to shoot and like to pass”. Something that all Blues fans will enjoy having. In the past year, Bokk looked like a threat anytime he was on the ice, registering 14 goals and 41 points in 35 games in the SuperElit league.
Bokk all but puts himself in contention for the highest rated Right Wing prospect in the Blues organization with 2017 1st round draft pick Klim Kostin, and 2016 2nd round pick, Jordan Kyrou in the conversation as well. The Blues may have gotten a steal here at #25 with Bokk, and are certainly excited to add his name to the list of talented forward prospects. If the Blues can ensure that their blue line and goaltending is taken care of, the Blues window for true Stanley Cup contention may be opening here quicker than some fans are expecting.
Minnesota Wild – Filip Johanasson – D
“I need one or two more years in Sweden, then play in the American Hockey League.”
The Wild have had their fair share of luck with the draft in recent years. Current prospects Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Mason Shaw lead the way for a number of talented prospects coming to the Wild over the next several years. The biggest problem new General Manager, Paul Fenton faces though is making room under the salary cap, and proper ice time for these young players.
The amount of impact defensemen available in this draft likely had some influence on their decision to go with blue-liner, Filip Johanasson at #24. During his first round interview, Johansson compared himself to Oilers defenseman, Adam Larsson. Behind Shaw and Erkisson Ek, the Wild do not boast many exciting prospects down the middle and it was thought they would go with a Center here. The good news for Blues fans is that Fenton will have his work cut out for him making room before we are able to see any of these players on the ice.
Colorado Avalanche – Martin Kaut – RW
The Avalanche’s need for secondary scoring wingers needed to be addressed. During the season, Nathan MacKinnon’s injury really showed just how much the Avalanche relied on their big name players, and ultimately helped keep St. Louis in contention until Game 82. Their selection of Kaut looks to boast a player who can compete hard in all three zones and projects to be a Top 6 scoring winger. The biggest concern going into the draft was regarding Kaut’s health. According to Bob McKenzie:
“…Kaut was flagged at the NHL Combine medical screening for a congenital heart condition. He wasn’t able to do any of the physical testing and coming out of the combine there were fears expressed by some about his status.”
Though Kaut was ultimately cleared, any medical concerns at this point should still be weighed going into his professional career. With upcoming forwards, Tyson Jost, JT Compher, Shane Bowers, and Vladislav Kamenev, the Avalanche are putting together the pieces to compete with the rest of the division and Western Conference.
Dallas Stars – Ty Dellandrea – C
The Stars went a LITTLE off the board here with this pick, shocking the entire draft floor when they announced the 6’0″, 183 lb. Center’s name at the 13th overall pick. Dellandrea was not slated to go until at least the second round for many, but Dallas seems to think that they have found something that others may have missed. Dellandrea managed 59 points (27g, 32a) during the 17-18 season in the OHL with the Flint Firebirds. The Stars really need help between the pipes, but the goaltending crop available did not warrant the #13 pick.
Chicago Blackhawks – Adam Boqvist – D and Nicolas Beaudin – D
The Blackhawks are currently boasting several big name defensive prospects in Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell, so it is surprising what the club decided to do with their selections in the first round. With the 8th overall pick, the Hawks chose Adam Boqvist, an undersized defenseman (5’11”, 165 lbs) that has at times had issues against bigger sized opponents, but certainly has a knack for creating offense. He finished out his 2017-18 Season in the SuperElit league with 14 goals and 24 points in 25 games.
The Blackhawks utilized their 27th overall pick on a second defenseman, Nicolas Beaudin, a 5’11”, 172lb from the QMJHL. Beaudin plays a strong game with and without the puck, and has a high-level Hockey IQ. Finished the 2017-18 season with an impressive 69 points (12g, 57a) in 68 games played.
Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman recognized that Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are not getting any younger, and is hoping to keep his blue line afloat as long as possible. The Hawks’ prospect pool is coming along nicely, but this is a little concerning that they did not choose to move back in the draft, or move one of their two first round picks to address their goaltending situation. The Hawks’ season seemed to falter once goaltender Corey Crawford went down for the season and they could never find a replacement. Perhaps, Blues fans will agree that the longer they hold off addressing their goaltending situation, the better.