(HockeyStL) -- There are few National Hockey League teams that have done as solid a job drafting players as the Blues have the past few seasons. Even with the departure of Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blues’ former Director of Amateur Scouting, the Blues seem to be faring well with their picks in the annual National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Kekalainen, who has since moved on to become the Columbus Blues Jacket’s general manager, was responsible for the drafting of many of the Blues’ core. However, it was his replacement, Bill Armstrong, who drafted Dmitrij Jaskin, a player that is the cause of some excitement in St. Louis.
Jaskin, 20, signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blues last Wednesday after finishing up his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) season. Jaskin played in 51 games with the Moncton Wildcats this past season. He was fourth in the league with 46 goals, but played in 15 fewer games than the leading goal-scorer, Anthony Mantha, who had 50 goals. Overall, Jaskin had 99 points (46 goals, 53 assists) which was fifth-best in the QMJHL.
Recently, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Jaskin will go straight to the parent club, rather than play with the Blues’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Peoria Rivermen. The Blues assigned Jaskin to the Rivermen on Wednesday but instead of heading to Peoria, he joined the Blues in Nashville late Monday evening after sorting out immigration issues.
“Jaskin is an NHL-ready combination of size and skill,” said Blues’ Director of Player Development Tim Taylor. “His offensive prowess, physicality and hockey sense give him the versatility to play up and down the lineup and contribute in a variety of roles.”
The Blues drafted Jaskin in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and already he is receiving some heavy compliments. Recently, when asked about the 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said Jaskin reminds him of Blackhawks’ winger Marian Hossa. Hossa has been around the league for many years and has never struggled to put the puck in the net. It’s a pretty heavy comparison by Hitchcock.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus wrote an article in Sept. 2012 that listed Jaskin as the Blues’ eighth-best prospect. This particular article was written before Jaskin’s breakout 2012-13 season. In that article, Pronman listed Jaskin’s strengths as his ability to drive to the net, and his strong, physical play. At the time, Jaskin was coming off of a season in the Czech pro league in which he struggled to produce any offensive numbers. Pronman pointed out that Jaskin still had offensive upside, and sure enough, the following season, Jaskin put up big numbers. However, Pronman is leery regarding Jaskin’s quick jump to the NHL.
“I'm usually skeptical about bringing any junior player into the NHL minus elite prospects,” said Pronman via email. “Just last season Jaskin struggled in the Czech pro league, and a year later he's going to the NHL? I’m not absolutely shocked as he's developed very well this season and is physically advanced but I'd be wary of such a significant jump.”
Jaskin impressed many with his play this season, including the Blues’ brass and it looks like they will give the Omsk, Russia native a shot to prove he is ready. However, Pronman’s concerns are certainly legitimate as the skill level in the NHL is much higher than what Jaskin is used to seeing.
“Most league quality studies I've seen has all three of the CHL leagues as between 1/4-1/3 the quality of the NHL,” Pronman pointed out. “The list of 19 year old players tearing up a CHL league is quite long.”
Pronman, who has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to judging the talent of up-and-coming players, said Jaskin’s physicality is one of his more impressive qualities.
“His skill for a big man and his power game (is impressive),” said Pronman. “He's a big, strong, physical forward who can make plays with the puck. The kind of combo is what many teams highly covet. He has a good shot and makes plays to his line mates as well.”
Pronman respectfully declined to do a player comparison because he feels it is unfair to the player, but he did offer some insight into how Jaskin may respond at the NHL level. Pronman is a bit leery of Jaskin jumping straight to the NHL is because he has seen a player perform well in lesser-skilled leagues and then struggle in the NHL. But Pronman does view Jaskin as a top prospect for the Blues, and despite being wary, he sees a solid future for Jaskin.
According to Hitchcock, Jaskin will not be a player in Tuesday night’s contest, despite being available. The Blues plan on being patient and giving Jaskin time to adjust. With the rosters expanded and the Blues battling injuries, there is a strong possibility that Jaskin remains with the team for the remainder of the season. Until he gets to experience NHL play, not enough is known about Jaskin to get overly excited. It does, however, look like the Blues, once again, landed a solid prospect with some assets that, if used correctly, could lead to a long and prosperous NHL career.