T.J. Oshie -- The 24th-overall selection in the 2005 Entry Draft, Oshie was hampered by a fractured thumb this past season, but continued to make strong progress throughout the WCHA season. The injury held Oshie to nine goals and 29 points through the first 28 games of last season, but he closed with a rush, scoring eight goals and 23 points over the last 15 games. The Blues had hoped Oshie, 20, would turn pro this season, but he opted to return to North Dakota for one more year.
“More important than just stats is his approach to the game. He comes to play, and works hard to improve in all game situations. He’s not big (5-foot-10, 183 pounds), but he gets involved physically and he’s elusive,” Blues Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jarmo Kekäläinen said.
Lars Eller became the first Danish-born and trained player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft (13th overall in 2007)
Lars Eller-- The first Danish-born and trained player to be selected in the first round of the Entry Draft (13th overall in 2007), Eller emerged last season as one of the top junior-aged prospects in the world.
Known primarily as an excellent playmaking center and smooth skater, he can also score goals, as demonstrated with a two-goal performance in the Frölunda Indians’ Swedish SuperElit Under-20 championship winning game last season. For the season, he had 55 points, including 18 goals, in 38 games.
“Eller has all the tools to be a very good all-around NHL player, and the work ethic to improve every day,” says Kekäläinen. “All of our scouts really liked his approach to the game, as well as his skills.”
Eller recently underwent surgery to repair a small bone fracture in his left wrist. Doctors in Sweden and Danish doctors told him would heal on its own, but the Blues’ medical team recommended surgery. Next season Eller will join Allsvenskan team Borås to gain pro experience and ice time at the adult level. There’s a chance he could he could make his Elitserien debut with the Frölunda Indians at some point during the 2007-08 season.
“The cream rises to the top,” Kekäläinen said. “It doesn’t matter much from our perspective whether he plays the season in Allsvenskan or Elitserien, although obviously the elite league is a higher level of opposition. Ultimately, a player’s performance will make it obvious what level he should be playing at, and we have a lot of confidence in Eller.”
Patrik Berglund -- Last season, as an 18-year-old, the 25th overall pick in the 2006 emerged as one of the top scorers in Allsvenskan while playing for Västerås IK. In 35 games, the 6-foot-4, 190 pound Berglund had 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) and a plus-10 defensive rating. At the World Junior Championships, he had one goal and three points in seven games. He is still eligible for the 2008 World Juniors.
Originally, the plan for Berglund was for him to play one more season in Sweden for VIK. The Swedish regular season starts in September. It now appears that the youngster will miss at least the start of the season for Västerås, because the Blues want to continue evaluating him first-hand. He will first join other rookies in camp and then take part in the Blues’ main training camp before (likely) returning home.
David Perron -- Perron received little fanfare last fall when he joined the Lewiston MAINEiacs from the Quebec Junior-A level St. Jerome Panthers. In fact, he went unselected in two consecutive QMJHL bantam drafts.
One year later, the late-blooming left winger is a first-round NHL draft choice by the Blues (taken 26th overall with the pick acquired from San Jose in the Bill Guerin trade) coming off a 39 goal, 83 point rookie season in the Q.
The 19-year-old Perron’s strongest traits are his soft hands and stickhandling ability. He isn’t the biggest player (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) or the swiftest of skaters, but makes up for it with his ability to anticipate the play.
“I’m not looking to come here in September for training camp just to make an impression, just to have the experience. I want to make the team right away,” Perron said recently.
It’s more likely that Perron will return to the Quebec League for one more season, because he may need additional time to round out his two-way game and add additional strength. Even so, the Blues are impressed by the player’s skill level and determination. Perron has spent the summer playing hockey, often driving an hour from house to play and practice for three to four hours a day.
“He’s driven to succeed, and we like to see that,” Kekalainen said. “He had the self-confidence to show teams in the Quebec they underestimated him and he made our scouts take notice.”
Simon Hjalmarsson -- When the Blues selected Frölunda Indians junior right wing Hjalmarsson in the second round (39th overall) in 2007, his linemate, first-round pick Eller, went over to the Blues’ draft table to tell the team they’d made a wise choice.
Kekäläinen, however, says the Blues’ decision to draft the Swedish winger had nothing to do with the fact he and Eller played together. St. Louis selected him strictly on his own merits.
“Ideally, would it be great for us to be able to bring Eller and Hjalmarsson over to North America at the same time?” Kekalainen asked. “Sure. We already know they have some chemistry together. But they’ll develop at their own pace, and we’ll see from there.”
Hjalmarsson is regarded as one of the best finishers to come through the Swedish junior ranks in quite some time. He has a very quick shot release, can puck the puck upstairs even from in close and is accomplished on the backhand as well as the forehand. He is also a nifty stickhandler and a good passer.
Jay Barriball -- Originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the sixth round (203rd overall) of the 2006 draft, Barriball has raised his stock considerably over the last year. The 20-year-old’s rights came over to the Blues in the deal that sent veteran Bill Guerin to San Jose.
Barriball is small (just 5-foot-9), but plays like a pinball, crashing the net fearlessly and initiating contact along the boards. He also has finishing ability, as his 20 goals and 43 points in 44 freshman games last year the University of Minnesota attest.
Tomas Kana -- The 2006-07 season is one the Czech national junior hockey teams would like to forget, but the play of 19-year-old Tomas Kana was one of the bright spots.
Selected in the second round (31st overall) in ‘06, Kana established himself this past season as a regular with Czech Extraliga (top league) team HC Vitkovice. He scored a respectable nine goals and seven assists in 44 games. Keep in mind that the Extraliga is a veteran-heavy circuit in which young players typically have trouble earning ice time. Additionally, the Extraliga does not award secondary assists.
At the WJC in Sweden, Kana was one of the few players on a disappointing Czech team to post a solid performance, scoring two goals and five points.
Kana, who can also play center as well as wing, is an aggressive forechecker and relatively physical player (he’s had as many as 155 penalty minutes at the Czech junior level) who has shown the top of competitiveness the Blues like to see from their prospects