After having four picks last year, St. Louis Blues scouts are excited to go into the 2014 NHL Draft with nine selections.
"It's a good thing for our staff, because you travel all year and you get to this point and you want to pick," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong told the team website. "The more picks you have, the more excited you get. Our staff is well-prepared. They've traveled the world and they're excited about, as we say in the business, taking a swing."
That starts in the first round, where the Blues have the No. 21 pick. If the Blues retain the pick, it will be their third first-round selection since 2010.
Not picking in the first round recently hasn't hurt the Blues' stockpile of prospects. They found right wings Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin in the second round in 2011, and each played in the NHL this season. Defenseman Joel Edmundson came in the second round in 2011 and he's close to being NHL-ready. The Blues also are high on defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, a 2010 fourth-round pick, and goaltender Jordan Binnington, a third-round selection in 2011.
With a strong and varied prospect pool, Armstrong said his focus will be on picking the best player available when the Blues' turn comes.
"I think you look at the best player possible, the highest talent on the board that you want to take," he said. "If there's a tie, then you lean toward the need of the team at that point."
He said there a few qualities he and his staff look for in players, all with an eye toward competing in the tough Western Conference.
"Obviously we're looking for strong character, the determination in the player, the ability to improve, the ability to fight through adversity," Armstrong said. "There are certain characteristics we want to make sure our players have when we draft them, and that's a huge thing for us. As an organization, we play the Chicagos and the L.A.s and the Anaheims and San Joses. These are top, top clubs in the National Hockey League and they're all bunched on one side of the NHL. We have to make sure that we get the highest amount of character and talent. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and you've got to go through some tremendous teams to do that, so you have to set the bar and the standards very high."
Armstrong said he and his scouting staff have held their meetings and set their lists but there will continue to be discussions all through the draft, which will be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
"It’s in a phase for us right now where we've met as a staff and we've put the players on the board that we think we have a chance to acquire at our picks," he said. "We study that. There's a lot to do at this point because you've got Europeans in there. … You want to make sure the background work is all done on them. We're pretty extensive with that. You also have to look at the stuff from the [NHL Scouting] Combine, what type of athlete are you getting, their size. Are there any injuries? You want to make sure you've gone over all that."