By Jeff Ponder
St. Louis Blues management has seen their roster rise from cellar dwellers to NHL stardom. In 2010-11, the team finished with 87 points for 11th in the Western Conference. Just a season later, the Blues amassed the second-most points in franchise history, recording 114 points for third overall in the NHL. Since then, the Blues have been in the Stanley Cup discussion every season.
The franchise has picked up its elite roster through all avenues possible. Whether it was through free-agency, trades or the draft, the Blues have found the winning formula in team construction.
St. Louis Blues Draft Picks
Coming off numerous seasons of regular-season success, the Blues were looking to the future at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and sent winger Cory Stillman to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 62). Backes was available, and the Blues took a chance on the USHL product.
Backes went on to be a force for Minnesota State, contributing 46 goals and 109 points in 115 games, spanning over three seasons. He became the top prospect for the Blues and played in his first NHL game on Dec. 19, 2006. A captaincy and a Selke Trophy nomination followed as the original trade turned from an unnoticed, miniscule deal to one of the most important in the franchise's history.
When the Devils were preparing to make their first-round pick at No. 25, the Blues struck a deal to send their first-round and third-round picks in exchange for the Devils' pick. The result? Patrik Berglund. Before joining the Blues, Berglund spent two more seasons with Vik Vasteras of the Swedish Leagues. He groomed his game and joined the Blues to open the 2008-09 season.
Oshie was drafted by the Blues at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was picked in the first round, 24th overall. After graduating from Warroad High School in Minnesota, Oshie went on to play three seasons with the University of North Dakota. He joined the Blues to open the 2008-09 season.
Reaves was drafted by the Blues with their fifth-round pick, 156th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He earned a reputation with WHL Brandon as a feisty forward who was gifted with some offensive talent. Reaves went on to play three seasons with AHL Peoria before receiving his first call-up to the Blues in 2010-11.
Schwartz was a highly regarded prospect at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after amassing 34 goals and 76 points in 46 games for SJHL Notre Dame as a 17-year old. He was taken by the Blues with their first-round pick, 14th overall. Schwartz played one season with Colorado College and decided to turn pro days after his team was defeated in the playoffs. He made his NHL debut on March 17, 2012.
Just two picks after the Blues selected Schwartz, the team came to a deal with the Ottawa Senators to acquire the 16th overall selection, sending away their 2009 first-round selection, defenseman David Rundblad. The Blues used this to draft the highly anticipated Tarasenko, a native of Yaroslavl, Russia.
With NHL scouts uneasy about drafting Russians, the Blues took the leap of faith that Tarasenko will stay true to his word: he wanted to play in the NHL. After spending two more seasons in Russia, as well as playing through the lockout with the KHL, Tarasenko arrived in St. Louis for the season opener in 2012-13.
The Blues made a draft-day deal in 2007 to acquire Calgary's first-round pick (No. 18) in exchange for their first-round pick (No. 24) and third-round selection (No. 70). The Blues used the higher pick to select Cole, a defenseman from the U.S. National Team Development Program. Cole attended the University of Notre Dame for three years before becoming a valuable piece to AHL Peoria's defensive scheme. This is the first season that Cole has remained with the Blues through the duration.
Jackman is currently the longest tenured Blue (Icon SMI) Jackman spent his entire WHL career with Regina and was a noticeably physical defenseman with a willingness to take on anyone who come near his goaltender. The Blues were happy to select him with their first-round pick, 17th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
Jackman joined AHL Worcester during the 2000 playoffs but returned to Regina the following season. He then spent the entire 2001-02 season with the then-Blues AHL affiliate. He appeared in his first NHL game in the Blues' last matchup of the 2001-02 season, skating in 18:56 against Detroit on April 14. Jackman is the longest tenured, as well as the third oldest, member of the Blues.
Alex Pietrangelo battles with Anze Kopitar in the 2013 playoffs (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Pietrangelo was the Blues' fourth-overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He served as a standout defenseman for OHL Niagara the season prior and was projected to be picked very early. After bouncing between the OHL, AHL and NHL for two seasons,
Pietrangelo officially became a full-time member of the team in 2010-11, when he quickly started earning the ice time of a No. 1 defenseman.
The Blues selected Polak with their sixth-round pick, 180th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He continued to play in the Czech Republic until 2006, when he moved to North America to play with AHL Peoria and six games with the Blues. He became an NHL regular in 2008-09 when he played in 69 games.
St. Louis Blues Free-Agent Signings
After being drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2004 NHL draft (ninth round, 279th overall), Cracknell bounced between ECHL Las Vegas and AHL Omaha. He spent 2008-09 with AHL Quad City, then was signed by the Blues on July 23, 2009. He spent three seasons with AHL Peoria before becoming a regular NHL call-up in 2012-13.
Lapierre came up with the Canadiens (Resolute/wikimedia) Lapierre spent two seasons with QMJHL Montreal before being drafted in the 2003 draft with the Canadiens' second round, 61st overall pick. He debuted with the Canadiens in 2005-06 and spent parts of six seasons with Montreal before a trade sent him to the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 31, 2010.
He only spent 19 games with Anaheim, then was sent to the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 28, 2011. After finishing the season with Vancouver, he signed a two-year contract to stay with the Canucks. Becoming a free agent in 2013, the Blues signed Lapierre to a two-year contract on July 5.
A top point producer for WHL Portland, Morrow was drafted by the Dallas Stars with the 25th overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He served as the team's captain for parts of seven seasons and then was shipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2013 trade deadline in search of that elusive Stanley Cup.
He continued his quest when he signed a one-year contract with the Blues on Sept. 23, 2013.
Scorching the OHL with 76 goals and 168 points in two seasons with Kitchener, Roy waited until the second round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft to be picked by the Buffalo Sabres with their 32nd overall pick. Roy played out two more seasons with his OHL club before joining the Sabres for eight seasons.
The movement began for Roy after the 2011-12 season, when he was traded to Dallas in July and then again to Vancouver in April 2013. He signed a one-year contract as a free agent with the Blues on July 6, 2013.
Highly touted after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, 17th overall, of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Colaiacovo struggled to stay healthy with the Maple Leafs. After parts of six seasons with Toronto, he was shipped along with Alexander Steen to the Blues in exchange for Lee Stempniak on Nov. 28, 2008.
Colaiacovo spent the rest of the 2008-09 season, along with three more campaigns, with the Blues until he signed as a free-agent with the Red Wings at the start of the 2012-13 season. He returned to the Blues, signing as a free agent on Nov. 14, 2013, after defenseman Jordan Leopold was placed on long-term injured reserve.
Elliott first appeared in the NHL as a Senator (Dan4th on Flickr) Elliott was relatively unnoticed by NHL scouts before the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The Ottawa Senators used their ninth-round pick, 291st overall, to take the goalie that was going to be attending the University of Wisconsin in the Fall.
The Canadian goalie spent all four years in Wisconsin before going pro and agreeing to play with AHL Binghamton. He played in the AHL and NHL for two seasons before acquiring a full-time job with Ottawa in 2009-10. The following season, Elliott was traded to Colorado for Craig Anderson on Feb. 18, 2011. He played in just 12 games for the Avalanche before he became an unrestricted free agent.
Elliott signed a one-year contract with the Blues on July 1, 2011.
St. Louis Blues Trade Acquisitions
After he was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers placed high hopes on the Swede. It never panned out as the young star did not seem to fit the Oilers' system. He was traded to the Blues along with a 2014 second-round pick in exchange for left-winger David Perron.
Sobotka was selected by the Boston Bruins with their fourth-round pick, 106th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The forward continued his European career, playing with the HC Slavia Praha organization in the Czech league. He made his Bruins debut in 2007-08 and played three seasons, mostly on the team's fourth line.
The Bruins opted to trade Sobotka to the Blues on June 26, 2010 in exchange for defenseman David Warsofsky. Since then, Sobotka has filled in as the top centerman for St. Louis.
Steen was considered a top prospect by the Maple Leafs, earning top minutes in his 2005-06 rookie season. The 2002 24th overall pick quickly turned from future star to the team's reason for failure in the media's eyes, likely being a cause in his Nov. 24, 2008 trade, along with Carlo Colaiacovo, to the Blues in exchange for Lee Stempniak. Steen has risen back to hero status as a top goal scorer for the Blues in 2013-14.
Stewart was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche with the 18th overall pick in 2006. After some time with AHL Lake Erie, Stewart rose through the ranks and became a top-six forward for the Avalanche. In an attempt to better the franchise, Avalanche management moved Stewart, along with Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional draft pick, to the Blues in exchange for defenseman Erik Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a conditional draft pick.
Bouwmeester departed Florida, despite fans' attempts to keep him Selected No. 3 overall in 2002, Bouwmeester stepped in right away with the Florida Panthers. He saw success in the Sunshine State, but the franchise could not afford the defenseman when he entered free agency in 2009. He signed a long-term contract with the Calgary Flames. Bouwmeester served as the No. 1 defenseman for the Flames during his tenure, but ultimately, could not lead the franchise to the playoffs. With the organization entering a rebuild, the team dealt Bouwmeester to the Blues in exchange for defenseman Mark Cundari, goaltender Reto Berra and two conditional draft picks.
Leopold, selected in the second round, 44th overall, of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, was somewhat of a journeyman defenseman before ending up in St. Louis. Spending time with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins before ending up with the Buffalo Sabres from 2010-2013, Leopold was acquired by the Blues on March 30, 2013, in exchange for two draft picks.
When Shattenkirk was selected in the first round, 14th overall, of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche knew he would need time to mature with Boston University. After three seasons in the collegiate league, Shattenkirk turned pro and signed with the Avalanche to open the 2010-11 season. He instantly impressed the Colorado brass and started earning top-pairing minutes.
But the Avalanche, looking to make a lateral move to shake things up, sent Shattenkirk, along with Chris Stewart and a conditional draft pick, to the Blues in exchange for defenseman Erik Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a conditional draft pick.
A renowned goaltender in his native Slovakia, Halak was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft with their ninth-round pick, 271st overall. Before he made the jump to the NHL in 2006-07, Halak skated in the QMJHL, ECHL and AHL. He and Carey Price manned the pipes to open the 2008-09 season.
Halak became a household name in 2010 when he not only led Team Slovakia to the bronze medal game in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but continued his assault into the NHL season and led the Canadiens on a thrilling run to the Eastern Conference finals. The Blues had shuffled through goalies over the years, and had their eyes set on Halak. The teams struck a deal that sent Halak to St. Louis while Lars Eller and Ian Schultz landed with the Canadiens. Prepared to become a free agent, Halak signed a four-year contract with the Blues to start the next season as their starting goaltender.
Jeff Ponder will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 NHL season. Jeff is the St. Louis Blues lead writer at TheHockeyWriters.com and is host of the Bash Brothers Podcast as well as the creator of the Hockey Podcast Directory.