Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the most prominent bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and how their NHL career turned out. Today, the St. Louis Blues draft Boom and Bust list.
St Louis Blues Draft Boom and Bust
The biggest boom for the Blues, in more ways than just draft position, is Colton Parayko. Parayko was a third-round pick, 86th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. At the time he was selected, he was playing with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In the years following his selection in the draft, he joined the NCAA playing for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. In his third and final season, he captained the team.
At 22 years old, Parayko made the jump to the NHL fulltime as a rookie with the Blues, playing in 79 games. During his rookie season, Parayko put up nine goals and 33 points and has remained consistent with those numbers throughout his career. Over the next three seasons, Parayko kept pace with back to back 35-point seasons, his career-high. And a 28-point season in 2018-2019, but that was capped of with the ultimate prize.
To complete the 2018-2019 season, Parayko played an integral role in helping the Blues capture the Stanley Cup in franchise history. Throughout 26 playoff games, Parayko posted 12 points and averaged just over 25 minutes of ice time per game. Now this season, he and the Blues had been playing well until the pandemic shut down the league. Parayko was on pace for a career-high in points as he was averaging a career-high .44 points per game.
Parayko is in the prime of his career and has played just under 400 career games already. He will likely eclipse 1000 games with ease as he continues to emerge as one of the best defensemen in the league. He may even see a Norris trophy in his future, but that remains to be seen. We know that Parayko will be a constant on the blue line in the NHL for a long time to come.
Lee Stempniak is a former third-round pick of St. Louis, 148th overall in the 2003 Draft. After completing four seasons with Dartmouth in the NCAA, where he spent his final two seasons as Captain, Stempniak jumped to the NHL in the 2005-2006 season. In his first season in the league, he played 26 games in the AHL with the Peoria Rivermen throughout the season. He played another 57 games with the Blues. After his rookie season, there was no looking back for Stempniak.
Stempniak is now retired, but he finished his career having played 911 games over parts of 14 seasons. He finished with 203 goals and 469 points. Known as a speedy, two-way winger, Stempniak was often a highly sought-after player. This led to him being traded six times and playing for 11 teams throughout his career.
Jordan Binnington is the current starting goaltender for the St. Louis Blues. He was drafted by the organization in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, selected 88th overall. At 26 years old, Binnington’s career, though short so far, has been a story of perseverance.
After being drafted, Binnington played two more seasons in the OHL and got a shot to play on the Canadian Under-20 World Junior team, that did not go well for him. In two appearances, he posted a .871 Save Percentage and a 6.82 Goals Against Average. In his 50 games with the Owen Sound Attack that same season stellar numbers, with a .932 Save Percentage and a 2.17 Goal Against.
After leaving the junior ranks, Binnington then bounced around the minor leagues for a few years, where he was average at best. He even dropped so low on the St. Louis depth chart that he was loaned to the Providence Bruins in 2017-2018. But that year also seemed to be the turning point of his career. He set career bests with a .926 Save Percentage and a 2.05 Goals Against, while also making it to the AHL All-Star game for the first time.
The 2018-19 Season
The following year was the pinnacle of his career to this far. After starting the AHL season, he finally got the call to a struggling Blues team in December 2018. With starting goaltender Jake Allen unable to get the job done Binnington took over as the starter on January 7th, he then proceeded to lead the Blues to one of the most historic comebacks in NHL history. In 30 games, he went 24-5-1 with a .930 Save Percentage leading the Blues into the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Binnington continued to shine and lead St. Louis through all 26 games to a Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins. Along with a Stanley Cup, he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and named Rookie of the Month in both February and March of 2019. His drive and competitiveness have continued into the 2020 season. He entered the season as the starter of the Blues and was named to the NHL All-Star Game.
Marek Schwarz is a Czech goaltender who was drafted by the Blues, 17th overall, in the 2004 Entry Draft. In the years before his selection, Schwarz looked to be one of the next great Czech goaltenders. During his draft year, he put up a save percentage of .909 percent, while in international tournaments, his save percentage was a mere .888 percent.
The following year would see Schwarz come to Canada to play for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. In his first season playing in North America, Schwarz played 56 games with a 2.67 Goals Against Average and a .900 Save Percentage. He represented the Czech Republic once again in the U-20 World Juniors playing in six games with a 2.15 Goals Against Average and a .925 Save Percentage and winning a Bronze Medal. After the year-long stint in the WHL Schwarz, he returned to the Czech Republic for the 2005-2006 season, where he continued to play well and have respectable numbers.
The 2006-07 season is where Schwarz finally got his taste of professional hockey in North America, though it was mostly in the AHL. Playing in 34 games for the Peoria Rivermen, Schwarz had a 2.79 Goals Against Average and a .899 Save Percentage, not a good start. The following season saw a slight dip in his numbers at the AHL level but a drastic drop off in his two games with the Blues. The real kicker for Schwarz was his demotion at one point to the ECHL.
And in what would be his final season in North America, 2008-09, Schwarz managed to only play in parts of 17 total games between all three leagues. This would also be the first year in which a new goaltender prospect would join the pro ranks full time within the Blues organization, Ben Bishop. The arrival of Bishop made Schwarz expendable, and he promptly returned to the Czech Republic, where he has managed to continue his career to this day.
Other Notable Busts
Shawn Belle was another first-round pick of the Blues, being selected 30th overall in the 2003 Entry Draft. He was never the best skater or offensive producer, but throughout his junior career, he won two gold medals and a silver medal. In 2005-06 he made the jump to the pro ranks of the AHL, where he would play much of his career.
Belles’ rights were moved in his rookie season to the Minnesota Wild, where he would get his first look in at the NHL playing in just nine games. He would bounce around the AHL and NHL until 2011-2012, where he went to play in Europe for four seasons before retiring in 2015.
Jordan Schmaltz is a defenseman who was drafted 25th overall by the Blue in the 2012 Entry Draft. Playing in the USHL during his junior years, Schmaltz was a standout on the blueline. And in his second year as a part of the Green Bay Gamblers Championship team. From there, he moved on to play in the NCAA with the University of North Dakota.
The 2015-2016 season is where Schmaltz made his professional debut playing in 71 games with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, the Blues affiliate team. Since then, Schmaltz has had some injury concerns as he hasn’t managed to play a full season since then. He has since been traded twice now and is a member of the New York Islanders farm system as he continues his career.