HAZELWOOD, Mo. - The last time the Blues held their annual prospect camp, Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko made quite the impression, eventually earning NHL roster spots just a few months later.
Fabbri and Parayko didn’t just have strong regular seasons as rookies, but they also made key contributions during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the Blues reach the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.
So, who at prospect camp will be the next Fabbri or Parayko?
“I can’t guarantee (Ken Hitchcock) that we’ll have two of those players come out of here this year,” said Tim Taylor, the Blues’ Director of Player Development. “But we’re going to use Parayko and Fabbri as the mold we’re looking for. They went above and beyond with their commitment to being here all summer. That being said, we do have a lot of good prospects and good character guys here that have done well at their age groups.”
This week, 30 Blues prospects are participating in a four-day camp at the team’s practice facility at St. Louis Outlet Mall. The camp divides the players into two groups and features daily off-ice workouts, on-ice practice sessions and a scrimmage. The on-ice practice sessions, which begin at 2 p.m. and continue through 4:30 p.m., are free and open to the public.
Players participating include all eight of the Blues’ 2016 draft selections - Tage Thompson (first round, 26th overall), Jordan Kyrou (second round, 35th overall) and Evan Fitzpatrick (second round, 59th overall) lead that group - plus recent selections Vince Dunn (second round, 56th overall in 2015), Tommy Vannelli (second round, 47th overall in 2013) and Ville Husso (fourth round, 94th overall in 2014).
“This is more of an introduction to our organization,” Taylor said of the camp, which he’s been working to organize over the last few months. “For a lot of these kids, its their first time in a pro camp so to speak. They came in this morning and saw (Blues defenseman) Alex Pietrangelo working out at 6:30 in the morning. It’s a real good indication of what these guys have to go through to be a pro - understanding that 24/7, the game has to be on their mind.”
It’s not all hard work, though.
On Tuesday night, the prospects will spend some time racing go-karts at Gateway Kartplex in Madison, IL. On Wednesday, they'll take in a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. On Thursday, they'll be working in the kitchen having competitive cook-offs.
All of these activities are designed to help the players bond and get adjusted to life as a professional athlete while also teaching proper workout habits and nutrition.
“At the end of the day, we go to Traverse City and these guys are going to be playing on the same team,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to remember, a lot of these kids have lived with their parents or had billets - people that have catered to them to make sure they’ve taken care of themselves. But now they’re turning pro, and it’s a big adjustment. Now they’re living on their own, they have to make own breakfast, dinner and lunch. It’s a different adjustment, so we’re trying to make it as easy of a transition for them as possible.
“All this stuff we’re doing is trying to push them into being an every day pro.”
2016 PROSPECT CAMP ROSTERS
Team Tkachuk: Evan Fitzpatrick (G), Ryan Ruck (G), Vince Dunn (D), Niko Mikkola (D), Grant Frederic (D), MacKenzie MacEachern (F), Adam Musil (F), Dwyer Tschantz (F), Justin Selman (F), Glenn Gawdin (F), Conner Bleackley (F), Filip Helt (F), Jamie Armstrong (F), Tanner Kaspick (F)
Team MacInnis: Ville Husso (G), Drew Vogler (G), Dmitrii Sergeev (D), Thomas Vannelli (D), Evan Polei (F), Samuel Kurker (F), Liam Dunda (F), Austin Poganski (F), Samuel Blais (F), Nolan Stevens (F), Tage Thompson (F), Nikolaj Krag Christensen (F), Jordan Kyrou (F), Sam Povorozniouk (F)
Injured: Jake Walman (D), Luke Opilka (G)