ST. LOUIS - Somewhere between making a great impression in his rookie season, helping the St. Louis Blues reach the Western Conference Final and earning NHL All-Rookie honors, defenseman Colton Parayko still found time to hit the college textbooks.
On Friday, Parayko will graduate from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
"Hockey can only last so long. I'm going to have to work after hockey," Parayko said. "Having a degree in my back pocket is obviously a bonus."
The 23-year-old native of St. Albert, Alberta spent three years at the university before signing an entry-level contract with the Blues in 2015. He left school to join the team with seven courses still remaining.
During his rookie season in the NHL, he took three online classes in the fall semester, two during the spring semester and two more this summer.
"During the playoffs, I would go home and be thinking about hockey 24/7," Parayko recalls. "When I got to the books, it freed my mind a little bit. It was almost a little stress relief, a way to take my mind off hockey for a couple of hours each day."
While obtaining his degree was important to Parayko, it also was his promise to his parents when he became a professional athlete. "It was the smallest thing I can do for them," he said.
Parayko ranked second among rookie defensemen in goals (9), assists (24) and points (33) in 2015-16. He led all rookies with a plus-28 rating, which ranked fifth overall in the League and set a franchise rookie record, so it's highly unlikely Parayko will be applying for jobs any time soon. But when he does, he will have a background that will make him a good candidate for open positions in finance, marketing or human resources.
For now, though, the classes are done. The homework is finished and the last exam has been taken, and that's cause for celebration.
"There isn't a graduation ceremony, so I'll probably just have my own," Parayko said. "Maybe I'll find a cap and gown and sit in my room. I don't know what I'm going to do, but it feels good. It feels like a big accomplishment."