After last year’s first round sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, the Blues made some pretty major changes. Letting forwards Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman walk in free agency and defenceman Vince Dunn being selected by Seattle, they faced pretty significant losses. However, with key additions like Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad, as well as the deadline acquisition of Nick Leddy, they became a much better team. Not to mention the internal developments of Ville Husso, Jordan Kyrou, and Robert Thomas going a long way as well. They were able to not only advance to the second round this year but push the eventual Stanley Cup champions to six games.
This offseason, the Blues did not have as many holes to fill. Armstrong quickly re-signed deadline acquisition Nick Leddy and signed Thomas Greiss to fill the hole left by Ville Husso. The Blues also added Noel Acciari to take over a bottom-six role on the team. They also added Josh Leivo to bolster their depth. Other than those moves, the Blues have been pretty quiet when it comes to free agency and trades.
Throughout Doug Armstrong’s tenure, the Blues have been a relatively effective team at the draft table. Despite not having a pick higher than 14th overall and being in the same conference as teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Vancouver Canucks during their heydays, they were consistently one of the better teams in the NHL. They have remained this way for most of the past decade as well. Obviously, every team requires a combination of things to build their team up but the Blues longevity is in large part due to Armstrong and his staff’s drafting ability.
As I said earlier, they have never had a pick above 14th overall yet have been able to draft many key players and re-stock the cupboards. While Armstrong has occupied the GM seat, they have drafted; Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Joel Edmundson, Jordan Binnington, Colton Parayko, Ivan Barbashev, Jordan Kyrou, and Robert Thomas. On top of these names, they have been able to parlay other drafted prospects into key roster players. Dominik Bokk/Joel Edmundson into Justin Faulk, Sammy Blais into Pavel Buchnevich, and Tage Thompson into captain Ryan O’Reilly.
This draft, they have appeared to help stock their cupboards again. Drafting Jimmy Snuggerud on day one was a good choice and he fits the organization well from a stylistic standpoint. On day two, Armstrong and Co. took a few swings on some higher upside players which is always good to do. Players like Aleksanteri Kaskimaki and Arseni Koromyslov need major improvements but if they can put it all together, they could be potential steals relative to their draft positions. Another player of note was Michael Buchinger, he has a good combination of high upside while also possessing skills that make him an easily projectable player in the NHL.
Round One, 23rd overall — Jimmy Snuggerud, RW
With their first pick in the 2022 draft, the St. Louis Blues picked a talented two-way winger in Snuggerud. He shows both a great nose for the net and good facilitating abilities with the puck. His most dangerous weapon is his shot, which he can get off anywhere, showing great versatility with the puck on his stick. On top of his offensive skillset, Snuggerud combines his powerful motor and positional awareness to be an effective player in the defensive zone. He also has a good transition and puck retrieval game.
At worst, Snuggerud’s game should make him a well-rounded middle-six contributor with the potential to be much more. He’ll get his chance playing for the University of Minnesota next year, where he’ll be playing alongside many talented prospects like; Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley, and Brock Faber to name a few. It will be a great opportunity for him to develop with multiple high-end players and try to win a Championship his freshman year.
Round Three, 73rd overall, Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C
The Blues’ picked the offensively talented Kaskimaki with their second pick of the draft. The Finnish centre spent the majority of this season in the U-20 SM-Sarja where he was the most productive player by points-per game (of players who played more than 15 games). In the O-zone Kaskimaki shines above most, using his great speed,