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|Alex Pietrangelo played in nine games during the 2009-10 season, but has worked hard and hopes to play in many more during the 2010-11 season (Getty Images). |
sat in the stands at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, nervously waiting to hear his name called at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. After what probably felt like an eternity but really was only a couple of minutes, he heard his name called by former Blues’ Director of Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen.
Immediately, the nerves and butterflies were replaced by a big smile. He had been drafted fourth overall by the St. Louis Blues, a team that had already begun stockpiling talented young defenseman such as Erik Johnson (first overall pick in 2006) and Ian Cole
(17th overall pick in 2007).
It’s been two years since that memorable day, but Pietrangelo remembers it like it was only yesterday.
“It’s unbelievable how fast time has gone,” he said recently. “Only two years ago I was in that position. Ask anybody who has been a high pick, it’s a pretty tremendous experience.”
Now, after getting a small taste of NHL hockey last year and having a very successful 2009-10 campaign in the Ontario Hockey League, the 6-foot-3 defenseman says he’s ready to contribute at the NHL level.
“I think my confidence has grown quite a bit,” Pietrangelo said, just six months after taking a silver medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team Canada. He was arguably the tournament’s best player, recording three goals and eight assists for 11 points in just five games. He also had a plus/minus rating of +8.
Afterwards, he joined the Barrie Colts of the OHL, where he posted 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in just 25 games.
To prepare for training camp and the rigours of the NHL, Pietrangelo and other recent Blues draft picks were in town recently to work with Blues' Strength and Conditioning Coach Nelson Ayotte, who had prospects and several Blues players participating in sprints on a local track in mid-June.
“I’ve been working with Nelson on a lot of stuff to get quicker. I think these sprints are a really good example in getting better starts and continuing that speed. Running is obviously different than skating, but it kind of builds the same endurance.
“I’ve just been working with Nelson on a lot of different things and it’s been hard work, but it’s going to pay off.”
Ayotte is helping Pietrangelo increase the speed of his legs. He says he’d like to increase the young defenseman’s muscle mass by 12 pounds before the beginning of the season.
Ayotte adds that physically, Pietrangelo is ready to make the leap into the NHL this summer.
“With Petro, he’s gaining strength really fast and gaining muscle really fast. He’s a hard worker,” Ayotte said. “Year after year, we see his commitment increasing. That’s the key for him to become what we think he can become.
“He’ll be ready to go this fall. Physically, he will. The rest of it he must still show, but we know he has tons of skill, so there’s no reason for him not to be part of this organization full time next year.”
Pietrangelo knows that he has plenty to prove before he can become a permanent fixture on Blues’ defense.
“I just have to go in there and do my job,” he said. “Any player going into training camp has to go into it with the mindset that it’s your job to lose. That’s the mindset I’m going with, and I’m going to use the experience that I’ve gained and hopefully it’s going to pay off.”