I have been all around the Blues prospect camp this week and I have been impressed with the amazing talent and skill that is being shown out there by some of the Blues brightest young stars. Some we will see sooner than others, but the future of St. Louis Blues hockey is going to be amazing. Here are some of the players that were quite impressive: (in no particular order)
D Ian Cole (Notre Dame) selected 18th overall this year - The first thing you see by looking at Ian is his size and skating. At 6-1, 210 Cole has a lot of room for improvement but did not show his young age as being the youngest defenseman at the camp. He is one of the nicest guys I talked to afterwards and will do great things playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next season.
David Perron, selected 26th overall this year - Wow, what stickhandling and skating ability. He's cocky and only 19, very raw still but has potential through the roof. At Friday's skate during a breakaway relay, Perron went in against Riksman and deked him three times before roofing a backhander into the net, completely undressing Riksman. That is the kind of fire and speed the Blues could use.
Erik Johnson, selected 1st overall in 2006 - Get ready Blues fans, Johnson will be patroling the blueline in St. Louis this season. He's big, strong, tough, mature, and is ready for the NHL. Granted he will make his share of mistakes, Chris Pronger was nearly run out of St. Louis when he first joined the Blues but he went on to win the Norris and Hart Trophy in one season. Erik will learn under Jay McKee, Barret Jackman, Bryce Salvador, Christian Backman and others how to be a tough rugged defenseman in the NHL.
T.J. Oshie (North Dakota) - Although he is going back to the Fighting Sioux for one more year, Oshie could have easily made the Blues opening day roster this year. He doesn't look that big in street clothes but when he straps on a pair of skates and put on his gear, he is a big guy with serious ability. I could see him and Paul Kariya play well beside each other in 2008.
D Roman Polak - This guy saw some NHL action with the Blues last season and has put on about 20 pounds of muscle. He is a beast and reminds me of a Murray Baron in his prime but better. Polak should crack the Blues roster soon, should there be any injuries to the Blues defensemen.
Jay Barriball (Minnesota) - This guy is only 5-10 but led the Golden Gophers with 20 goals last season AS A FRESHMAN! He was an amazing addition in the Bill Guerin trade with San Jose. Him and Erik Johnson are really close, but Jay is a few years away still.
Ryan Duncan (North Dakota) - The reigning Hobey Baker winner went undrafted this past year and he is indeed a bit small (5-6), but he has a load of skill and talent. Andy Murray is close to Ryan and his father and the Blues might make a push to sign Ryan to an NHL contract after next season. Duncan is linemates with T.J. Oshie in North Dakota and the two paired up on a line with Martin Kariya, Paul's brother, throughout the prospect camp and worked very well together.
Patrik Berglund - This guy is a beast at center, 6-4, 190, Berglund used his size to drive the net with the puck and loves to roof the puck as well. He took on Roman Polak one-on-one coming out of the corner with the puck and made his way to the front of the net, reversed direction and roofed the puck for a goal over Rito Berra. Amazing skill, the only down side is that he is going back to play for Vasteras (Sweden) this year and will not be ready for at least another year or two. Too bad, the Blues could use his size and skill, reminds me of a Michal Handzus.
On a final note, I ran into Lars Eller at St. Louis Mills and spoke to him for a while. His left arm was in a hard cast as he had surgery on his wrist on Thurday morning. He will be in a cast for one week, then will be in a soft cast for seven weeks and he said he will be ready to come back and play for his team, Frolunda Jr. (SWE Jr.) around late September. He is one of the nicest guys to speak too and his English is great too. He is very excited about being on the Blues and added that he loves the fan turnout at the Prospect Camp.
Was anybody else impressed with these guys or are there any I might have left out?