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Parayko ready for increased responsibility with Blues

Defenseman knows more will be expected after signing five-year contract

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko enters his third NHL season with one focus.

"To make us a better team," he said following an informal skate at the Blues practice facility Wednesday.

Parayko, 24, had 35 points (four goals, 31 assists) in 81 games last season, and avoided an arbitration hearing when he signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract ($5.5 million average annual value) July 20.

"Having [forward Jaden] Schwartz signed with some term and [forward Vladimir] Tarasenko and [goaltender] Jake Allen and to have [Parayko] under some term, he'll be a part of a core group of guys that we can continue to grow with," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.

 

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With the new contract, there will be more responsibilities, but Parayko is looking forward to them. That could include an increase in ice time from the 21:11 he averaged per game last season.

"I obviously want to come and be a better player and be a big part of it," Parayko said. "But at the same time, I don't want to get outside of my game and try to do things that aren't part of me. You've just got to find a medium that's going to make the team better and also make you efficient.

"The main goal is to obviously have the best team and hopefully I can help solidify that and just kind of do my job and make it easy for others. I obviously don't want to get out of my element and get out of things I do best. I've got to focus on doing those and try to do that every single night, obviously [be] more consistent and make sure I continue to play good."

At 6-foot-6, 226 pounds, Parayko skates well and has a big shot from the right point. He was a frequent partner with Joel Edmundson for most of last season, and it's likely they'll stay together and give the Blues a solid top-four along with Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo this season.

"He's a player that I think we complement each other well in different ways," Parayko said of Edmundson. "He's easy to play with and you kind of know what he's about and he's easy to read off of. I think we really started to find our stride there. I'm excited for us."

Video: MIN@STL, Gm3: Parayko slams Berglund's feed into cage

Parayko's journey to the NHL took him through midget hockey in St. Albert, Alberta, to Fort McMurray of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, followed by three seasons at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Selected by the Blues in the third round (No. 86) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Parayko said the new contract is proof that his hard work has paid off.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "It's actually really special. … I almost get goose bumps just thinking about it just because it was definitely not the most efficient path to get here. But at the end of the day it's one of those things where it's just that much more rewarding that it all happened. It's not even just for myself. It's for my family and my friends, and you can just kind of see and hear the vibe when you talk to them and how excited they are.

"My grandpa (Tom Parayko) came to every single game while I was growing up. He was there every single game wearing his fur hat and I still remember it. He was the first guy I called and it was pretty special. I think my grandma (Carol) was there and I think she started crying. He was just so thrilled too. Things just like that are opportunities you can't really pass up. It was such a cool experience to have something like that."

Parayko said he's happy the contract allows him to continue as part of the Blues' core of young players that will push to improve on last season, when they finished third in the Central Division and lost to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Second Round.

"It's exciting to be a part of that because you look at last year how we had an extremely good team, I think we're only going to get better this year with a little bit more experience," Parayko said. "... I'm excited to be a part of this and move forward."

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