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Q&A with Blues Prospect Jake Allen

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

Jake Allen was drafted by the Blues in the second round (34th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft. Prior to joining the Peoria Rivermen, he was awarded the honor of CHL Goaltender of the Year and was named to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's First All-Star Team in the 2009-10 season. He also has represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and in the World U18 Championships.

As Allen gets set to begin the season with the Rivermen on Oct. 12 against Abbotsford, we caught up with him for a quick Q&A session.

STLOUISBLUES.COM: As a kid growing up in Canada, was it easy to figure out that you wanted to be a hockey player?

: I lived in a really small town, and all my buddies that I was in school with started playing hockey, so I got into it, too. I started out as a forward at 5 (years old), and when I turned 8, I turned into a goalie. It’s not too hard to get excited about hockey, especially where I’m from.

BLUES: What made you decide to switch from forward to goalie?

ALLEN: At that age, everyone gets a chance to play goalie, and a lot of young kids want to play goalie. We had a rotation in net, but no one else wanted to stay there. I liked it, so I stuck with it and haven’t changed.

BLUES: You grew up in a small town. Were there any rinks nearby?

ALLEN: We had a minor hockey arena, but my dad built a rink in our backyard most years, and then I moved to Fredericton where I live now. My neighbor also played in the American Hockey League last year, and both of us had rinks in our backyards, so we skated together. He’s a forward and I’m a goalie, so (it works out).

BLUES: You’ve had quite the international career. You’ve been Team Canada’s goaltender at the U18 World Championships and you won a silver medal at the World Junior Championships. What stands out when you think back on your international playing career?

ALLEN: I never thought I’d have a chance to play in the under-18s coming from my first year in junior, but I grew a lot as a goalie and as a person. It gave me that added experience and I played well. I came back and played well in my next two years in junior, so I got the chance to (represent Canada again). That was another bonus. It’s just more experience under my belt. Each game, you learn something new, but those experiences I’ll never forget.

BLUES: Being Canada's goalie at the World Junior Championships comes with plenty of pressure, doesn't it?
ALLEN: Yeah. It’s tough, but it’s the way it goes. You have ups and downs and you lose a lot, but I learned a lot, too, so I gained something valuable.

BLUES: You have plenty of individual awards to go with your team awards. You received the Jacques Plante Trophy as the Best Goaltender in the Quebec Major Junior League and were named the CHL Goaltender of the Year. How special are those honors?

ALLEN: Those are just bonuses. You don’t play for those during the season, but at the end of the year, if you’re recognized and get those awards, then great. It’s just an added bonus that people recognize your performance, so I was proud to get those awards.

BLUES: Do you remember how special it was to hear your name called by the Blues at the 2008 NHL Draft?

ALLEN: I didn’t really have an expectation of where I’d be drafted or when. You don’t want to have your hopes too high. When I got picked by the Blues, I couldn’t ask for anything better, really. It was a great situation for me and I’ve learned a lot. I couldn’t have asked to go to a better spot.

BLUES: Talk about your goalie tandem last year with Ben Bishop. Did you guys learn a lot by working with each other?

ALLEN: I think Ben learned some things from me, and I learned a lot from Ben. He got the opportunity to play in some NHL games in his first couple years in the minors, so he told me a lot about it and what it’s like. Learning from him and watching him last year, he was the best goalie in the American Hockey League. He proved it when he went to the NHL, as he was one of the top goalies when we went up there. Learning from him and just being around him everyday is going to help me.

BLUES: With Bishop in the Ottawa Senators organization now, it looks like you’ll be getting more of the workload here in Peoria. What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to coming in and just playing. I’ve missed being here (this past summer) and I’ve missed playing. I want to get as many games under my belt as possible. I got to play 50 games my first year here, and hopefully I can up that number this season. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully the boys are, too.

BLUES: What’s your outlook for the Rivermen this year?

ALLEN: It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a good league. Luckily enough, we have (Jaden Schwartz) down here and (Ian) Cole. It’s going to be good. The season hasn’t started, but the guys look good right now and we should have a solid team to compete night in and night out.

BLUES: With the strong goaltending the Blues have in
Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, how does a young goalie like yourself manage to work your way up to the NHL?
ALLEN: It was great to go up there during the playoffs last year, and in practices and training camps, to watch those guys. I got to see what they’re doing, watch them and hopefully learn some things. I can’t control (how good the goalies ahead of me are). All I can control is the way I play, so hopefully if I play well, a break will come sometime.

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