The moment he’d been waiting for has finally come: Alex Pietrangelo
has earned a spot on the Blues’ 23-man roster.
Pietrangelo, along with teammate Tyson Strachan, met with General Manager Doug Armstrong and Head Coach Davis Payne on Tuesday, where both players were told they’d be remaining with the Blues to start the 2010-11 season.
The decision ends arguably the most interesting aspect of training camp: the race for the final spots on the team’s blueline.
Pietrangelo and Strachan battled with Ian Cole
and Nathan Oystrick for the spots: Oystrick was assigned to Peoria on Monday, while Cole was assigned a day later.
“It’s a relief (to know I’m staying), but it’s only the start,” Pietrangelo said. “You have to keep going forward because you know there are guys trying to take your spot. I just have to keep playing good hockey and try to help the team win.”
The move means the Blues will begin the season with seven defenseman: Eric Brewer, Carlo Colaiacovo
, Barret Jackman
, Erik Johnson, Roman Polak
, Pietrangelo and Strachan. Nikita Nikitin also remains on the active roster, but he's out for an extended period of time due to injury.
Pietrangelo was drafted by the Blues fourth overall in 2008. Five defenseman were chosen in the Top 10 that year: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Zach Bogosian (Atlanta Thrashers), Tyler Myers (Buffalo Sabres) and Luke Schenn (Toronto Maple Leafs). Pietrangelo, widely considered the most talented but also the most raw of that group, was the only one not yet getting regular minutes in the NHL.
Earlier this year, Pietrangelo took a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships. 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.
He finished the 2010 preseason with one assist and a -1 rating in 5 games played.
Pietrangelo spent the summer working with Blues’ Strength and Conditioning Coach Nelson Ayotte, building his leg strength and trying to improve his speed.
“He’ll be ready to go this fall. Physically, he will,” Ayotte said in July. “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.”
Pietrangelo has 17 games of NHL experience in the past two seasons. Each time previously, he'd been sent back to juniors, but that won't be an option this year.
“The only pressure now is what I put on myself to perform. That’s the best part about it,” he said.