The 2021 NHL Draft is over. How’d St. Louis do?
The St. Louis Blues only had four picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. With so little action this weekend, it was paramount that the Blues got as much value as they possibly could with each pick. With players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and Mike Hoffman all potentially on their way out, the weekend needed to be dedicated to finding the right guys — guys that could step up quick and patch the holes of any future losses. Did they manage that?
Spoiler: kinda, yeah!
Grading the Blues Draft Picks
First Round (17th Overall) — Zachary Bolduc (C/RW)
Trois-Rivières, Quebec, CA — 02/24/2003 — 6’1”, 174 lbs
Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL) — 27 Games Played, 10 Goals, 19 Assists, 29 Points
The Blues spent their First Round pick on winger Zach Bolduc. This is a player Game Time broke down when he was taken Friday night. But he’s worth another gloss over.
Bolduc is on the line of what is quickly becoming an “old school” style. The NHL is drastically turning towards small, speedy, skilled stars but Bolduc holds true to the 2010s with his heavy, power-forward package. He’s a strong winger with a great ability to create chances off of the rush. Scouts have raved about his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone and find options quickly. If he can’t, Bolduc falls back to his terrific shot. Thanks to his large frame, this shot is powerful and accurate. His mechanics get it off quick and keep it dangerous. Having such a dangerous weapon as a secondary option, backing up great ability to find plays, is promising!
But there are hiccups in Bolduc’s play. His skating is noticeably slower than his peers. His ability to pass the puck effectively helps him maintain the tempo of the game but if he wants to continue to play a highly-transitional game at the pro level, he will need to find a way to use his strength to get an added boost behind his stride. Bolduc also missed just-under two months with a shoulder injury this year, raising some more concerns.
CHL scouts have assured me that his ceiling could be high, thanks to his unique blend of physicality and strength with solid play-creating and shooting. However, his floor may not be perfect. He’s a project but one that we’ve seen the Blues take on time-and-time again. And they always work out! So there’s no reason for overt pessimism… yet.
Pick Grade: B
Other options available make this pick a little off-putting. Many thought Bolduc would be picked in the 20s-or-30s. But there’s reason for optimism, particularly with how he may fit into the Blues system.
Who I Would Have Picked: Chaz Lucius (18th Overall – WPG)
Chaz Lucius is a similar player. He’s slower but has a great shot. But Chaz Lucius’ shot adds a strangely-effective ability to score. It doesn’t matter what is happening on the ice. Lucius’ dazzling stickhandling and wicked-quick shot guarantee the puck is going to go into the net.
Third Round (71st Overall) — Simon Robertsson (RW)
Piteå, SE — 02/05/2003 — 6’0”, 190 lbs
Skellefteå AIK (SHL) — 22 Games Played, 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 3 Points
Hey, déjà vu! The Blues traded up in the third round to select Simon Robertsson, a big-bodied right-winger with a great shot! Is it clear who the Blues are trying to replace?
Simon Robertsson is very similar to Bolduc. He enjoys carrying the puck through the neutral zone and identifying chances quickly in the offensive zone. But Bolduc uses his strong physicality to attack the opposition head-on, whereas Robertsson prefers to be a bit more elusive and use strong stickhandling and quick movements to burst into open lanes and get a quick shot off.
At the end of the day, their shots are still primary focuses of both player’s games. Robertsson’s is a bit better but he can sometimes struggle with his shot selection, leaving things a bit awkward or unsatisfying. Still, his ability to crash into lanes quickly off the rush and rifle a high-quality shot on net is impressive. He is, perhaps, the purest sniper in this draft class.
Of course, that begs the question… if Robertsson is the purest sniper and plays a similar game to Bolduc, with a better shot, why was he available in the third??? Who knows! Robertsson was a consensus First Round talent. My personal rankings slotted him in at 19th overall and Kyle Cushman’s consolidated rankings, which featured nearly-60 rankings, had Robertsson as the consensus 26th-best player in the class.
This selection was a master-level steal from a GM that always seems to pull tricks like this off. Robertsson is a First Round talent that the Blues have expressed interest in for months. He fell into their laps in the Third Round. There is a reality where he is the steal of the draft.
Pick Grade: A++
Who I Would Have Picked: Simon Robertsson (71st Overall – STL)
I truly can not believe Robertsson fell to the Blues like this. It is a tremendous selection by the team and one that really carried an otherwise modest draft day. Be happy, Doug Armstrong did it again!
Fifth Round (145th Overall) — Tyson Galloway (LD)
Kamloops, British Columbia, CA — 01/20/2003 — 6’4”, 214 lbs
Calgary Hitmen (WHL) — 17 Games Played, 4 Goals, 5 Assists, 9 Points
This pick is… well, it’s a pick. In a draft where teams were getting steal-after-steal, the Blues ended up with a very modest, very stereotypical Fifth Round talent here. Tyson Galloway isn’t a defenseman that’s going to blow fans away but he’s a modest, large-stature defenseman who shuts down play defensively with his long reach and can break out of the zone well. He adds to it everything else you’d expect a 6’4” defenseman to have: booming shot, just-okay skating, generally-strong passing.
This pick does feel a little off, though. While the Blues did lose Vince Dunn to Seattle, they had a logjam at LD that was actually satisfied by Dunn’s exit. But they just re-added to that jam. Galloway was religious to the left-side this year so getting him to move over seems a bit too optimistic. He’s a fine prospect but maybe not the right one for this team.
Pick Grade: C
Who I Would Have Picked: Bryce Montgomery (170th Overall – CAR)
The Blues clearly wanted a big-body defenseman, capable of sparking modest offense on the back of strong defense and breakout abilities. That is Bryce Montgomery to a T. But Montgomery can do that all while also being a right-handed shot, something the Blues need way more than a LD right now. He would’ve been a better fit, while still satisfying the role they were looking for.
Seventh Round (145th Overall) — Ivan Vorobyov (RW)
Surgut, RU — 03/11/2002 — 5’11”, 157 lbs
Mamonty Yugry (MHL) — 52 Games Played, 21 Goals, 29 Assists, 50 Points
Ivan Vorobyov is a name nobody has heard of. And the Blues picked him. And y’know what? It’s a really solid pick.
The Blues have a knack for going off-board with re-entry players, usually in the Seventh Round, and they stayed true to that M.O. this weekend. Vorobyov put up nice scoring numbers in a tough situation. In fact, he ranked fifth among all MHL players in his age group with better scoring than Washington Capitals 2020 fourth-round pick Bogdan Trineyev.
Vorobyov is a man with a nose for the net. It’s terrific. His stickhandling is incredibly strong. He lets the puck pull him from side-to-side, shifting his weight which gives him a terrific ability to move laterally and beat defensemen with ease. He isn’t the fastest player in a dead-straight but this fancy stickhandling and great elusiveness really makes him quick around the offensive zone. He likes driving the net, isn’t scared of physicality, and does what he needs to to score.
Is Vorobyov a home-run pick in the Seventh Round? No, not at all. There are noticeable drawbacks to his game that can be tough to iron out in stubborn players. But this pick shows me one very clear thing: the St. Louis Blues did their homework. After being passed on all of last year and most of this year, the Blues were able to identify Vorobyov’s ability and snipe him in the late round. He’s far from a popular name on one of the least-popular teams in Russia, showing how diligent the Blues scouts worked this year. With his mature ability to beat defenders and tenacious nose for the net, there’s something to like in Vorobyov. He puts his nose to the grindstone and works. That should translate well to North American play.
Pick Grade: B+
While Vorobyov is a great pick, he’s also 19. There were better players available that might have made more of an impact in the long term. Still, Vorobyov is a hard worker who should make the jump to North American pros soon, keeping this piece relatively strong.
Who I Would Have Picked: Connor Kurth (Undrafted)
Connor Kurth is the man I wanted the Blues to take in the 7th round. He’s a beefy muscle-man standing at 5’11”, 214 lbs. He uses this very fun size to absolutely toss opponents. He’s impossible to knock down, was stronger than anyone in the USHL, and used his size to great effect when attacking the slot. Kurth’s shot was also a top-5 in the USHL this year and his passing was equally strong, making him a dynamic scorer. He’s a slower player but has a lot of physical prowess that Craig Berube would’ve swooned over.
Overall Draft Grade: A-
The Blues get an A- in the 2021 NHL Draft! That’s really good, especially after taking a player I personally doubted in the First Round! The 2021 Draft was incredibly, incredibly messy, with some top-64 talents going completely undrafted and some First Round-talents falling to the mid-rounds. It was very frustrating for scouts around the hockey world. And through that mess, the Blues had a confident draft, pulling two First Round-quality players, one confident-but-modest defenseman, and a high-potential forward out of it. That’s as much as Blues fans can ask for right now!
What were your thoughts on the Blues Draft? Let us know in the poll, the comments below, or on Twitter @StLouisGameTime and @NHLFoley!