Blues focus on defense in draft

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues restocked their minor league system and are looking to upgrade in the immediate future after finishing with the second-best point total in franchise history last season.

The Blues loaded up on defensemen at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, taking four of them in eight picks, including three Saturday.

Following up on their first-round pick of defenseman Jordan Schmaltz at No. 25 on Friday night, St. Louis grabbed Colten Parayko in the third round. He had 42 points last season with Fort McMurray of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The Blues, who finished at 109 points with a 49-22-11 mark despite making a coaching change to Ken Hitchcock just 13 games in, were swept out of the Western Conference semifinals by eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles.

"If you look at the overall draft, there's skilled defensemen, two big power forwards that are in the middle with some good size," said Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong. "It's certainly a draft that we're excited about. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing the kids progress."

Schmaltz, out of the USHL, is considered to be a project player. The 6-foot-2, 189-pound blue-liner will attend the University of North Dakota next year. He split this past season between the Sioux City Musketeers and Green Bay Gamblers, ranking second among USHL defensemen with 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in 55 games.

Nicholas Walters of Everett in the WHL was the Blues' fourth-round pick. Walters had 18 points in 62 games a season ago, and Swedish defenseman Petteri Lindbohm was taken in the sixth round.

St. Louis followed up the Lindbohm pick with another Swede, center Tyrel Seaman in the seventh.

They began Saturday's second round by picking right wing Sam Kurker of St. John's Prep in Massachusetts. Kurker, who scored 32 goals and tallied 60 points in his senior season, will attend Boston University in the fall.

The Blues had two third-round picks and took left wing Mackenzie MacEachern of Brother Rice High School in suburban Detroit before taking Parayko.

Goalie Francois Tremblay was picked in the fifth round.

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