When members of the St. Louis Blues scouting staff enter Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for the opening round of the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday, they each will be carrying an important book along with them.

The book - developed through nearly a year of research, traveling and planning - is custom-made and contains a blueprint for how to shape the future of a professional hockey club for the next five, 10 or maybe even 15 years.

"It takes into account all the work the scouts have done throughout the year, going back to even August of last year, takes all that information, puts it together and gives us our final list for the NHL Draft," said Blues Assistant General Manager Ryan Miller.

Following the Draft Combine in Buffalo, NY where potential picks were interviewed and put through rigorous physical testing, Blues President and General Manager Doug Armstrong, Director of Amateur Scouting Tony Feltrin, full-time amateur scouts, Miller and other members of the hockey operations staff met in a hotel conference room at Niagara-on-the-Lake for several days to determine a draft order list.

This year, the Blues have three picks in the first round - including No. 10 overall, which will be the highest pick in Armstrong's 19-year career as a general manager. His previous highest with the Blues was at No. 14 in 2010, a pick he used to select Jaden Schwartz.

In addition to three first-round picks (No. 10, 25 and 29), the Blues also have six additional picks this season - No. 74, 76, 106, 138, 170 and 202. The club's nine picks are the most since 2014 when the club had 10 selections, which means Feltrin and the scouting staff have plenty of opportunities to stock the franchise with top young talent.

Inside the 2023 NHL Draft scouting meeting

"I've been on this side of the game for a number of years, drafting players for 25-plus seasons, and this year is a special class in the depth of the Draft," said Feltrin, who has run the Blues' scouting department since 2020 but has scouted hockey players since 1987. Players recently selected under Feltrin's tenure include Jake Neighbours (2020), Zachary Bolduc (2021) and Jimmy Snuggerud (2022). "The quality players are way [beyond] the first round. (There are) players that in most years would be drafted in the second round will likely fall into Round 3, and it's our good fortune that we hold those three first-round picks this year. This Draft is really going to let us select some outstanding prospects."

During these pre-Draft meetings, the team's scouting department went through a list of potential draftees one-by-one, debating everything from on-ice skills to physical traits and fitness to personality, family upbringing and leadership qualities. Amateur scouts contribute information they've gathered by traveling across the world watching the prospects compete, while hockey operations executives like Armstrong, Peter Chiarelli, Al MacInnis, Scott Mellanby, Keith Tkachuk and Tim Taylor listen and weigh in with their own knowledge of the game. Those discussions often lead to passionate debates - one scout might argue for one player while another scout feels strongly about a different player - but as a group, the staff comes to a consensus and leaves Niagara with a list of 75 or so prospects they intend to target - and in what order.

"There's no question that where we currently sit with the 10th pick, it's a position in the Draft that you're right in the wheelhouse to select a top player," said Feltrin. "I'm sure Doug's phone will be ringing right up until the selection. We're comfortable we're going to get a quality player for the St. Louis Blues at that number."

Added Miller, "Anytime you have multiple first-round picks, you have the opportunity to bring a few really good players into your organization. For a (scouting) group that spends 6-8 months, sometimes 10 months of the year on the road during the winter time in Canada, on planes to far away places like Sweden and Finland and Russia and Germany, etc… it's a really exciting opportunity for them to come here and really get to show the work they've done and really add potentially (some) real good players to the organization."

Round 1 of the NHL Draft begins on Wednesday, June 28 at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN and ESPN+. Rounds 2-7 will be available on NHL Network and ESPN+ beginning at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 29. Fans can get complete coverage by visiting Video: Inside the 2023 NHL Draft scouting meeting, using the Blues App or by following the Blues' social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.