|Alex Pietrangelo outgrew his dislike of hockey and became a 6-foot-3, 206-pound man, which helped him become a top prospect at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (Getty Images).
For someone who didn't particularly enjoy hockey as a child, Alex Pietrangelo has turned out to be a pretty impressive player.
Pietrangelo, selected fourth by St. Louis in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, eventually came to enjoy hockey and has the potential to be a defensive stalwart for the Blues.
Most Canadian-born hockey players start skating by age 2, but Pietrangelo, who was born in King City, Ontario, got a late start.
"It kind of started around the age of 6," Pietrangelo said. "I never used to like hockey, actually. My parents put me on the ice and I used to cry to get off the ice. They kept putting me back out there, and after a while I started to enjoy it more and more. And once they put a stick in my hands, it took off from there and I've loved the game ever since."
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Pietrangelo led the Niagara IceDogs and was seventh among Ontario Hockey League defensemen with 53 points. Of the six defensemen that scored more points than Pietrangelo, just Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires had a better plus-minus rating than Pietrangelo's plus-29 last season. Pietrangelo is a plus-69 in two OHL seasons.
"I try to play my own game, play both ends of the ice," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously take care of the defensive end and the offense will come with it. To be a good defenseman you have to be able to play both ends and that's what I've been told to try to do -- try to use my good vision with the power play and move the puck. For a big guy I figure I can skate pretty well and use my size to my advantage, and make sure the defensive end is working as well as the offense."
IceDogs General Manager Dave Brown praised Pietrangelo's ability to play in all situations.
"He can quarterback the power play, help kill penalties and he's great four-on-four," Brown told Osprey News Network. "I don't think there's a lot of question marks, but it's easy for me because I'm not putting anything on the line. I see him every day, know what he's all about and he's mature beyond his years. All the things you want as a GM, he brings to the table."
It's clear Blues GM Larry Pleau and John Davidson, the team president, feel the same. While Pietrangelo will be a major piece of righting the ship in St. Louis, where the Blues finished above only the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference last season, he will join a talented core of young players. In addition to Pietrangelo, the Blues' future nucleus includes four first-round picks in the past three drafts, including 2007 choices Patrick Berglund, Lars Eller and David Perron, and Erik Johnson, the first pick of the 2006 draft.
Johnson and Perron played for the Blues last season and Pietrangelo will have the chance to make the team out of training camp, but hockey wasn't his primary concern in April, when his season ended in the second round of the OHL playoffs when he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He managed to score four goals and add five assists for nine points in six playoff games for Niagara.
High point totals are something Pietrangelo has become accustomed to, and shouldn't come as a surprise for a player who started as a forward.
"I used to be the power forward," Pietrangelo said. "I used to wear No. 88 like Eric Lindros and someone decided to put me on defense and that worked out."
Pietrangelo, who wears No. 10 in Niagara, now fashions his game after another physical player who knows how to contribute offensively, and happens to be a former Blue.
"The guys always kind of tease me -- they call me Pronger because I guess I kind of play like him," Pietrangelo said of former Hart and Norris trophy winner Chris Pronger. "He's a big guy, he can skate and move the puck. So I think that kind of relates to me. I try to watch him, see what he does and try to apply it to my own game."
Blues brass certainly wouldn't mind another Pronger coming through the St. Louis.