Blues See Familiar Face in Pietrangelo

Wednesday, 07.09.2008 / 10:55 AM / St Louis Blues - Features
By Larry Wigge  - NHL.com
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Blues See Familiar Face in Pietrangelo
More than one person has compared Alex Pietrangelo to Chris Pronger. That explains, in part, why the St. Louis Blues picked the strapping Niagara defenseman with the No. 4 pick Friday night.
The Blues took defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with their first pick (4th overall) at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (Getty Images).

A couple of weeks ago, Alex Pietrangelo shook hands with Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis in St. Louis and then the two kind of disappeared. They met once again Friday night when the Blues picked fourth in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa.

"Al gave me a pretty good taste of what it means to be a member of the St. Louis Blues," Pietrangelo said. "I saw a lot of St. Louis and I could tell how passionate he was in talking about the city. It was special. When I got up to the podium tonight, Al winked and said, 'I didn't take you around the city for no reason.' "

For most of MacInnis' career in St. Louis, he starred on a defense that included another twin tower, Chris Pronger. The Blues would like to think that in the very near future, Pietrangelo, all 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, will be on a St. Louis defense that includes 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson.

"Alex has a lot of the same size and reach and skills of Chris Pronger," said Rick Meagher, St. Louis' Ontario Hockey League scout. "He's the best passer in the OHL. What stands out most is he's never out of position defensively already and he may have as much upside because of his size and age of any player in the draft.

"There's no panic to his game."

It's that passing ability and those offensive instincts, plus great power-play vision, that made Pietrangelo, of King City, Ontario, a no-brainer pick for the Blues, even if an offensive player might make more sense for a team that scored only 205 goals – third worst in the NHL – last season.

"We were looking for that puck-moving dimension," John Davidson, the Blues president said. "Alex skates well. He's involved. He's a tremendous transition player and that will help us get the puck out of our own zone and get it up to our forwards.

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Pietrangelo
Alex Pietrangelo
The Blues selected defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with their first pick (4th overall) at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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2008 Draft:  Video Audio
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"We're not going to push him to play in St. Louis right away, but he's a very mature young man and we'll let him show us if he's ready to play in the NHL right away."

Transition is more than just a buzzword for the Blues, especially when you consider Johnson's five goals on defense were one-third of the anemic total that St. Louis' defense had all of last season.

Pietrangelo had 13 goals and 40 assists for Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League, including 20 points in his final 11 games. Pietrangelo also had five goals in six playoff games before he was sidelined with mono-related complications.

One scout told me, "A lot of years, Alex would be the guy everybody talks about as the best defensemen in the draft; the guy clubs are willing to trade up to get. This year, with so many top-tier defensemen available, he's been kind of overshadowed a bit by Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian or a Luke Schenn.

"He might not be as NHL-ready as some of the others, but his upside is immense. In a couple of years, he could be the best player in this draft considering how hard it is to find a great, young defenseman.

"One day, he'll play 25 minutes a night and if he learns to use his body more effectively, he'll be scary to play against."

Forget upside. Pietrangelo thinks he's ready to play in the NHL right now.

"I know it's awfully difficult for an 18-year-old to make it in the NHL, but I'm going to do whatever I can," Pietrangelo said. "That's my goal."

During the Stanley Cup Final, Pietrangelo told me, "I was watching the game the other night (Game 1) and it was amazing to see how much quicker it is. But you learn to adapt to it."

Asked if the Pronger comparisons are fair, Pietrangelo laughed and said, "I don't have his mean streak. My game is more like Nicklas Lidstrom. He sees the ice well and controls the game at his pace. It's similar to what I do to control the game. He uses body position really well and puts opposing players in positions he wants them to be.

"I try to bring poise and patience out there on the ice."

High standards? You bet. But in addition to the 53 points Pietrangelo had in 60 games this season, he was also a plus-29. He's a plus-69 in 119 games through two seasons with the IceDogs.

An elated Davidson said, "For a few moments you like to dream about what things might look like, say, the next 10-15 years when we put Alex and Erik Johnson on defense together."

Maybe, just maybe, it will be like the next MacInnis-Pronger combination in St. Louis.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

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2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Steen 68 33 29 17 62
T. Oshie 79 21 39 19 60
D. Backes 74 27 30 14 57
J. Schwartz 80 25 31 28 56
A. Pietrangelo 81 8 43 20 51
K. Shattenkirk 81 10 35 1 45
V. Tarasenko 64 21 22 20 43
D. Roy 75 9 28 -1 37
J. Bouwmeester 82 4 33 26 37
V. Sobotka 61 9 24 14 33
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 18 6 2 .922 1.96
R. Miller 25 30 4 .918 2.64

 
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