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The Blues would love to sign defenseman Danny DeKeyser, a collegiate free agent who rose to elite prospect status under Western Michigan University coach Andy Murray.
(Yes, that Andy Murray — the former Blues coach who reinvented himself into a successful college hockey mentor.)
DeKeyser is ready to bolt to the NHL this week and the Blues hockey staff is in hot pursuit. Of course, every NHL team has shown interest in him and the Detroit Red Wings would love to keep the Michigan native close to home.
He had college eligibility left, but Murray believes DeKeyser is ready for the next level right now.
“He'll play right away in the NHL,” Murray told MLive.com “Now, do they deem next year he needs to play a few games in the AHL, I don't know, but I know right now teams will want to put him in their lineup.”
DeKeyser, 23, does have a bit of work to do. At 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, he will need to continue filling out his lanky frame. He is a defensive-minded player, so his offensive game is still evolving.
“He’s got things to learn, so I don’t want to say he’s totally ready, but he’ll learn that on the job,” Murray said. “First of all, he’s a real competitor. Every drill in practice he does all out. He doesn’t cheat on any drill. He has great skating ability. His skating was good last year. To me, the biggest thing people wanted to see was more of an offensive game and more strength and he did both.
“He’s got a great defensive stick. The most important thing is he thinks about the game real well. He makes plays and decisions that are the right decisions. He knows what he needs to do one step ahead of the play and that’s important.”
The Blues could sorely use DeKeyser to fill a void in their player development cycle. Ian Cole failed to develop into a reliable Top 6 defenseman this season and the Peoria Rivermen are bereft of blue-chip defensive prospects.
(On a positive note, defenseman Joel Edmundson, a 2011 draft pick playing in Kamloops, made the latest Hockey News Hot List of promising prospects.)
Now would be a great time to spend extra to fill a void. But could the Blues ever expect to outbid the mighty Red Wings for a young player?
Let’s explore the Twitterverse to see how the DeKeyser Sweepstakes are shaping up:
Chris Peters, United States of Hockey: “Source w/knowledge of process believes DET, ANA, NSH, EDM, Blues, and TB are strongest contenders for DeKeyser.”
John Buccigross, ESPN: “I hear Detroit, Edmonton, Anaheim, St. Louis, Nashville are final 5 for Western Michigan's Dan DeKeyser. With family in Michigan-Wings favorite.”
Andy Strickland, TrueHockey.com: “Blues remain interested in Western Michigan's Dan Dekeyser . . . as I reported before, Al Macinnis has done a solid job recruiting.”
Craig Custance, ESPN.com: “Expect a decision from talented college UFA D Danny DeKeyser by Thursday or no later than Friday morning. Tons of interest.”
Kukla’sCorner.com: “Glenn Healy on HNIC Hotstove said Danny DeKeyser has a Tuesday meeting in the office of player agent Don Meehan and the process will begin.”
Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun: “Leafs will be making a pitch for UFA D Danny DeKeyser this week, along with several other teams.”
Bob Stauffer, CHED Radio Edmonton: “If you read between the lines of what Justin Schultz had to say he will likely be involved in the recruitment of Danny Dekeyser.”
Katie Strang, ESPN.com: “Rangers won't be making in-person pitch for college FA Danny Dekeyser. Not believed to be among frontrunners, focusing efforts elsewhere.”
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