Early 2021 Draft Wish List: Three First Rounders the Blues Need

The 2021 NHL Draft is incredibly deep, with much of the class already being hotly debated. This is great news for the St. Louis Blues, who are sure to …

The 2021 NHL Draft is incredibly deep, with much of the class already being hotly debated. This is great news for the St. Louis Blues, who are sure to find a future top-six staple with whatever First Round pick they end up having.

But with the draft so far away — and, well, not even technically scheduled yet — it can be hard for fans to find which names they should hope the Blues reel in. To ease that trouble, here are three First Round talents that Blues fans should dream for.

Make sure to stay tuned, as we add to the 2021 Draft Wish List with mid-rounders and sleeper picks that Blues fans should also be excited for!

Red Savage, C, USNTDP (USDP)

Red Savage. That’s this kid’s name. That alone is enough to spend a First Round pick on him, if you ask me (even if it’s not the best name in the Draft. That goes to Owen Power).

But, of course, Savage’s skillset backs up the First Round sentiment. He just ranked 21st in my early ‘Top 32’ for the 2021 Draft; a bit lower than some people have him ranked. In all honesty, Savage could be very worth a middle-10 pick. He’s a seriously special talent, although it comes in a bit of a muted package.

Right off the bat, Savage’s clear specialty is his two-way ability. He’s easily one of the best two-way forwards in this draft and could very easily assume a center-role in the NHL. That’s a big jump and not something every C prospect can say. To be able to so confidently say it for Savage should speak to his ability in the defensive zone and the faceoff dot.

And that’s exactly where he’s most noticeable. The 18U USNTDP team is absolutely etrocious in their own end this season. They’ve simply relied on outscoring every opponent but when they get trapped in their own zone, they’re in immediate trouble. That is, unless Red Savage is on the ice. He’s so. damn. reliable. in the defensive end — enough to account for five teammates that are clearly out of their element. Savage’s ability to dart around the defensive end, breaking up plays and forcing the opposition’s hand, is remarkable and deserves more respect.

But that “babysitter” role defines Savage’s offensive ability as well. Really. He babysits this USNTDP team, often being the one to carry the puck up the ice and into the offensive end. Once there, Savage quarterbacks the entirety of play. It’s clear that he’s the one calling the shots, with his wingers beautifully playing around him. Even when the puck isn’t on his stick, Savage is able to use great, great hockey IQ and awareness to open up passing lanes and create opportunity.

He’s a babysitter. He’s a defensive powerhouse. He’s an offensive genius. Yet, many are holding him out of their Top 15. That’s very likely to change in the coming months but he’s still a name to keep an eye on. If he continues to stay in the 20-to-30s of most rankings, he’s a name the Blueshave to jump on. He’s sure to be a terrific second-line center in the NHL one day.

Prokhor Poltapov, RW, Krasnaya Armiya (MHL)

Prokhor Poltapov is another legendary name, in a draft full of ‘em. If Savage defines the “two-way” archetype, Poltapov is the pinnacle of the “playmaker” style. He shares similarities to a lot of players in this draft. He’s fast and combines that speed with great stickhandling, to help thrust play up the ice. He’s a transition dynamo at its best.

And that’s what makes him such a good playmaker. Poltapov is great at creating quick opportunities in the offensive end, sparked by solid transition up the ice. He’s got good vision for the ice around him and does very well on the outskirts of the rink. From there, he can use a solid passing ability — solid but albeit nothing awe-inspiring — to expose open lanes to teammates.

He’s also excellent at crashing down in on any exposed weaknesses in opposing defenses. In fact, his scoring threat comes largely from his ability to crash the net. Dylan Griffing, an MHL scout for Dobber Prospects, replied to me noting that Poltapov’s shooting ability might be “above-average” by saying, “I wouldn’t say he’s an above-average shooter. He wastes a lot of opportunities because of his low-level finishing… Going straight to the net is what he does most.” Griffing continued by emphasizing Poltapov’s knack for working on the flanks and playing in passes to teammates.

That does a fine job of summarizing Poltapov, who ranked 27th in my early rankings. He’s a bit linear in that sense. He makes up for a weak shot by crashing the net but is better off using great speed and agility to loop around the zone, finding open lanes. It’s a seriously fun style of play that could translate into a very comfortable playmaking ability in the NHL. Poltapov is much more likely to be available whenever the Blues pick. If they reel him in, he could rise the ranks to an NHL role quickly and replace an aging David Perron in the Blues top-six. While he isn’t going to amount to being one of the best shooters in the NHL — like Perron is — his speed in transition and up-and-down ability will be very valuable.

Logan Stankoven, C/W, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

It took a bit of thinking to figure out a third name that the Blues should focus in on. There are too many names to choose from. I was hesitant to include a third forward but, after considering the Blues needs, Logan Stankoven turns out to be a perfect name to pursue.

Prokhor Poltapov would bring a speedy, playmaking style to the Blues middle-six one day, as David Perron transitioned to retirement. Stankoven would, simply put, perfectly replace Perron.

Stankoven’s style completely revolves around a shot that is so incredibly lethal. It’s NHL-ready already, even though Stankoven is only 17. But his release is insanely quick, ranking among the top-five of all players listed in my October Top 32 (a list where he ranked 30th). It’s a rifle of a shot as well, both in terms of strength and accuracy.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the fact that Stankoven really knows how to use this top-end shooting ability. He’s notably agile, which allows him to dance around opposing sticks. After earning any sort of line-of-sight, his shot is quick enough to take advantage, earning a high-quality scoring chance seemingly every shift.

He’s absolutely terrific on all odd-man rushes, a situation he finds himself in often thanks to some great speed and skating ability — a talent that is already NHL-ready. His ability to rip a dangerous shot off in a split second makes him impossible to gauge when coming down in a two-on-one. Goalies tend to cheat towards the off-side, expecting a cross-crease pass to be made. This cheating is easily punished by Stankoven, making him a constant thorn in the side of opposing goalies.

I might be making Stankoven out to sound a bit too perfect. And while he definitely is a serious offensive threat, his defensive play is a glaring downside. He’s lacking in his own end, typically waiting around to spark his team’s movement up the ice instead of, well, actively shutting down the opposing team. This weakness is what had me taking the under on Stankoven in my early rankings.

But is it a damning quality? No, not at all. With Stankoven’s great shot, solid passing, NHL-ready skating, and overall offensive prowess is daunting. Defensive abilities can develop as he enters an NHL organization. But for now, he’s a terrific offensive threat, with “future top-six scorer” plastered on him.

I said the word “shot” a lot this section but Stankoven’s, uh… wrister? is truly a trait to be marveled. For all of the Blues fans that are begging the team to acquire Mike Hoffman, Stankoven is a damn fine prospect to dream for. He’s got the upside to become an elite scorer in the NHL but could very, very easily fall to wherever the Blues end up drafting. Like Savage and Poltapov, Stankoven is a perfect fit in St. Louis (who plays LW, C, and RW) that fans should hope for.

That’s all for our first edition of the Blues 2021 Draft Wish List. Follow St. Louis GameTime (@StLouisGameTime) and me (@NHLFoley) on Twitter to stay up to date on the coming Mid-Rounders Wish List and the Sleeper Picks trio!

Who did I miss? Who do you think the Blues should hone in on? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.