ST. LOUIS - Draft day is one of the most important days of the year for a franchise. It's the culmination of a year's worth of traveling, notetaking and analysis for the scouting team. It's a day that can shape the future of an organization - for good or bad.
For fans, the excitement is in the unknown. It releases hopeful endorphins in the bloodstream, causing the mind to dream of what could be. The potential that your early-round pick could become a generational talent, or your late-round selection could become the steal of the draft, well, it's intoxicating.
As draft day approaches, we took the time to look back at some of the great steals of Blues draft history. The franchise has certainly scored with early-round picks such as Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Perry Turnbull, Wayne Babych, Barret Jackman, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko. But let's take a look at some of the club's best late-round picks.
1973 - Bob Gassoff, (48th overall)
Gassoff, a Quesnel, B.C., native, was selected by the Blues from the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WCHL. He didn't fill-up the stat sheet, but Gassoff was fearless despite his modest 5-foot-10 stature. He was one of the NHL's top enforcers in an era when that role was infinitely more prominent. He made it possible for the likes of Garry Unger, Chuck Lefley, and Pierre Plante to post 30-goal seasons. Gassoff appeared in four seasons with the Blues from 1973 to 1977, collected 58 points and 866 penalty minutes in 245 regular season games. Tragically, his life was cut short in 1977 after a motorcycle accident. Gassoff's No. 3 was retired by the Blues on Oct. 1 that same year.
1976 - Mike Liut (56th overall)
Liut was drafted in the fourth round in 1976 and went on to spend his first six NHL seasons with the Blues. During that time, the Weston, Ontario, native dressed in 347 regular season games in the Blue Note and racked-up a franchise-best 151 wins. An All-Star with the Blues in 1981, he went on to appear in nine more seasons after leaving St. Louis, ending his career with 663 games played and 293 wins.
1982 - Doug Gilmour (134th overall)
Gilmour is the latest pick on this list. A seventh-round selection, the Kingston, Ontario, native collected 25 goals in his rookie season - tied for the fourth highest goal total for a rookie in Blues history. Gilmour spent five seasons in St. Louis, including 1986-87, when he posted a career-high 42 goals and finished with 105 points overall. He was traded to Calgary in 1988 and went on to play in 15 more seasons. Gilmour is one of 11 players in NHL history to finish with at least 1,400 points and 1,400 games, and he ranks 13th in Blues history with 354 points.
2003 - David Backes (62nd overall)
Backes wasn't a very late pick, but his addition in this list is based on his influence on the franchise. The Blues selected the Minneapolis native in the second round, beginning a 10-year career with the club. Backes served as captain for his final five seasons - a tenure bested only by Brian Sutter's nine-year stint from 1979 to 1988. He was a two-time 30-goal scorer with the Blues, including 2010-11, when he eclipsed 30 goals, 30 assists, and a plus-30 rating - the only season of its kind in Blues history. After a decade, Backes ended his Blues career ranked 6th in team history with 460 points.
2012 - Colton Parayko (86th overall) We are still way early to make this call, but all signs point to Parayko becoming one of the great draft picks in recent memory - for any team. In fact, since the 2012 draft, Parayko's 160 NHL games are the second-most of any player selected in the third round or later. The St. Albert, Alberta, native is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he collected a career-best 31 assists and 35 points overall. Parayko is currently a restricted free agent, but Blues GM Doug Armstrong has assured fans that Parayko will be signed this summer. He has the potential to become a fixture at future All-Star Games and a strong factor in the Hardest Shot competition.
Let's finish with an honorable mention. This selection doesn't really fit this list, but, in honor of the NHL Awards and his nomination for the Lady Byng Award, let's take a moment to remember how Vladimir Tarasenko came to St. Louis. In 2009, the Blues drafted Swedish defenseman David Rundblad. He never dressed with the Blues because on June 25, 2010, the club traded him to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 16th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. The Blues then used that pick to select Tarasenko. Rundblad went on to dressed in 113 NHL games between Ottawa, Phoenix, and Chicago, before returning to Europe, where he currently plays in the Swiss League.