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Blues goalie pick Opilka thrilled to meet Brodeur

by Adam Kimelman

SUNRISE, Fla. -- For goaltender Luke Opilka from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, being drafted by his favorite team, the St. Louis Blues, was a wonderful moment.

But it got even better when the fifth-round pick (No. 146), a St. Louis native, reached the Blues' draft table on the floor of BB&T Center. One of the first team officials he met was assistant general manager Martin Brodeur.

This is the first draft as an executive for Brodeur, the winningest goaltender in NHL history, who ended his 22-season career in January.

"I definitely had chills seeing him," Opilka said. "I was already shocked just being drafted to the home team and then I saw him. I was speechless almost. Couldn't get anything out."

The 6-foot-1, 192-pound goalie had a 2.70 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in 33 games with the NTDP Under-18 team this season. He also helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with a 3.01 GAA and .818 save percentage in two games.

NHL Central Scouting had him No. 12 on its final ranking of North American goaltenders for the draft.

"He's aggressive and is a quick-style goalie, challenging shooters very well," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He reads the plays well and is quick to react, has a good glove hand and is an overall strong goalie. He's got great lateral movement and competes very hard."

Opilka was one of four goaltenders invited to USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in August, which is the first step toward competing for a spot on the U.S. team for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. He's committed to the University of Wisconsin for next season.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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