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Blue Jackets' pick Peeke a model of consistency

Second-round pick continues building his game at Notre Dame

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

You could say Andrew Peeke has always been mature for his age. 

At just 14 years old, the Columbus Blue Jackets' second-round pick in the 2016 draft moved to Connecticut from his native Florida to chase his dream of becoming an NHL player. 

This past fall, he was named captain of the Notre Dame hockey team, earning the honor as a true junior despite the presence of four seniors on the Fighting Irish roster. 

But perhaps something that came in between most exemplifies the big-picture attitude possessed by the highly thought of defenseman. 

When he was still a teenager, Peeke made a decision - he wanted to attend one of the top academic colleges in the country, and he wanted to make a run at an NHL career. 

Such foresight isn't always common in youngsters, but Peeke knew he wanted to make it to the highest level academically and athletically, then made the choice to dedicate his life to it. 

"I guess when I was in Connecticut, I realized my hockey career could become a job in the future and that dream could become my reality for me," he said. "Coming to college and going to as good a school as I can and getting an education is something I wanted and my parents wanted for me because it's really important. 

"It's pretty cool to have a high-level education and eventually hopefully the chance to play in the NHL some day." 

So far, the plan is coming to fruition. After being chosen by the Blue Jackets with the No. 34 overall pick in 2016, he's become a standout along the Notre Dame blue line, earning enough acclaim that he was part of Team USA's World Juniors team a season ago. This year, he's leading the No. 11-ranked Fighting Irish, who visit Columbus this weekend for a two-game series against No. 4 Ohio State at Value City Arena. 

Peeke has filled up the stat sheet so far this season for the Irish. After totaling 28 points in 79 games over the first two seasons of his ND career, an average of 0.35 points per game, Peeke has two goals and 13 assists for a career-high 15 points in 25 games this year (0.60 points per game). 

He also has focused on adding a physical presence to his game. 

"For me, it's just continuing to focus on my strengths and working to make those as god as they can be," he said. "I'm also focused on my weaknesses and where I can improve. For me, it's continuing to be a physical factor on the ice. That's something I've really been focusing on. I think I'm leading my team in hits this year, and that's not something I did the first two years. I'm taking on a more physical-type role, which is really important for me at the next level. 

"Offensively, I'm getting more shots through, continuing to use my vision, look for open holes in the offensive zone and using my feet. I think I have more points this year than I did in my first two years, and we have 10 games left or so. That was one of my goals, so I've done well so far." 

Chris Clark, a development coach in the Blue Jackets organization, says Peeke gets better and better each game. If there's room for growth, it's on making himself tougher to play against. 

"He's in position, has a great stick, all that stuff," Clark said. "We would like him and I know his team would like him to be more aggressive. It's a tough thing to do because you can more aggressive and you get overaggressive and guys can beat you. 

"But going forward in his pro career, it's just being more assertive, being a little heavier, being harder to play against. You see him some games and you see one of the strongest guys in college hockey, and he overmatches guys when he does do it." 

But one attribute that Peeke does have is his consistency. That's something coaches prize, as players who bring the same thing each night rather than go up and down are the ones who tend to be most impactful at the next level. 

"He's steady," Clark said. "We can almost write our reports on him beforehand (when we go to games), which is awesome because you usually don't get that with young guys. That's one of the hardest things. He's awesome to work with because we don't really have to talk to him about consistency, so we can help him tweak his game." 

When it comes to modeling his game, Peeke likes to watch a player like Seth Jones, a two-way player who can shut opponents down in the defensive zone while adding something in the offensive end. At 6-foor-2, Peeke doens't quite have the suffocating size as Jones -- nor is he quite as known for his ability to pick up points -- but he does project nicely as someone who can be a plus player at both ends of the rink. 

His hockey journey has taken him from Florida to Connecticut, then Wisconsin to South Bend. When Peeke is ready -- whether that comes at the end of his junior season or beyond -- Columbus could very well be his next stop. 

"The dream of playing in the NHL, it's something growing up I always had," Peeke said. "It was my favorite sport to watch and go to growing up, so having that dream be a possible reality is something I've worked as hard as I could for." 

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