Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Hoping Draft Lives Up to Billing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blues Hoping Draft Lives Up to Billing

Article excerpt

* Even a second-round pick stands a good chance of yielding a skilled player.

The National Hockey League's 1997 entry draft has been hyped as one of the deepest amateur drafts in years, which is both a blessing and a curse for the Blues.

It's a curse in that the 15th pick overall, which former GM and coach Mike Keenan gave to Los Angeles in the Wayne Gretzky trade, probably will produce a top quality player with less uncertainty than is usually associated with a pick that late in the first round. "It's not the year to give up your first pick for 60 days of Wayne Gretzky," short-term Blues GM Ron Caron said. It's a blessing in that the 40th pick, the Blues' compensatory pick for losing Gretzky, might produce a decent player. The league granted the Blues the second-round pick as compensation for losing Gretzky as a free agent under an addendum to the collective bargaining agreement with the players and the owners. "We're really happy with that pick," said Blues scout Matt Keator, who covers New England. "It's a really good draft, with better depth overall than in past years. That's why I feel good that we picked up the extra picks. "There are more quality players in rounds two through six than there were last year or the year before. You can sit with your draft list and you can look at No. 1 through No. 50 and say, `I wouldn't mind having that guy or that guy or that guy.' There are more guys with more appealing assets in two through six than there have been in past years." Unfortunately, the hype behind this draft is that there are so many potential stars in the first round, led by top-rated prospect Joe Thornton, a 17-year-old center who will go to Boston with the first pick overall. Centers Patrick Marleau, Olli Jokinen and Daniel Tkaczuk, wingers Sergei Samsonov and Dan Cleary, defensemen Eric Brewer and Nick Boynton, and goalie Roberto Luongo also are considered potential stars. …

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