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McRae happy to sing the Blues

by Adam Schwartz

Philip McRae is the latest in a long line of players with NHL bloodlines. Philip, a 6-foot-2, 189-pound center, is the son of former NHL forward Basil McRae. Philip has a more deft touch around the net than his pop, and proved it by totaling 18 goals and 28 assists in 66 games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League -- where his father also played his junior hockey.

Philip was chosen No. 33 by the St. Louis Blues -- the team which Basil finished his NHL career with and works for as a scout -- in the 2008 Entry Draft. Like his father, Philip plays an intimidating game with an offensive upside, but has to improve his skating if he is going to play with the Blues.

"Philip is a power forward just like his dad, Basil, was," said NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire. "He brings a scoring ability that I think will carry over when he becomes -- and he will become -- an NHLer.

"Philip needs to work on his skating and he needs to get a little more polished -- as of right now he's more of a bull in the china shop-type power forward which every team can use. But to be a full, all-round player he needs to keep working. And there is no evidence to say the improvements that he has made this year won't continue on into his career in the skating department."

The younger McRae agrees with McGuire that he is a power forward, but he can wreak havoc in all three zones.

"I think I play kind of like a power forward game, use my size and my strength to my advantage," McRae said. "And at the same time try to play a good defensive game and try to take responsibility in my own end."

McRae struggled to score in his first season in London, where he had just two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 63 games, but he learned a lot about the game.

"It wasn't a wasted year -- the guys on the team were great and it was a close group so that was a lot of fun," McRae told the London Free Press. "I didn't feel like I played very well and didn't score as much as I expected, but I thought my defensive play improved as the year went on. The biggest thing I learned is that you have to take care of the defensive zone first. That's where it starts."


Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 79
(14th West/27th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 -2
Home Points 46
(13th West/22nd NHL)
Away Points 33
(15th West/29th NHL)

McRae had the privilege of growing up around NHL rinks because of his father. McRae was able to get extra practice time after the big-league players left the ice and he had the chance to learn how NHL players conducted themselves around the rink.

"I don't remember much," McRae said, "but from what I do remember, just being around the rink and always getting to go on the ice when they were done practicing and stuff and just being around a hockey rink all the time and just watching how they take care of themselves."

It was only natural for McRae's team to be the Blues while he was growing up, but his favorite Stanley Cup playoff moment isn't a St. Louis hockey highlight. It's Steve Yzerman's Game 7 double-overtime goal to knock the Blues out of the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs.

"I'm a big St. Louis Blues fan from growing up there, and I always remember Steve Yzerman's overtime slap shot to put St. Louis out of the playoffs," McRae said. "It was pretty upsetting but it was such a nice goal at the same time that it was great to see."

Instead of watching his hometown team, McRae could get the chance to skate for it.

"It's exciting to be drafted by the city you grew up in and played in," McRae told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McRae isn't the only homegrown St. Louis prospect. Travis Turnbull, son of former Blue Perry Turnbull, also is in the Blues' pipeline and they both took part in St. Louis' development camp in July. The two even played alongside one another.

"It was fun playing with Travis on my line because we're really good friends, and we both grew up in St. Louis," McRae told Belleville News-Democrat.

As if that wasn't enough home cooking, just prior to last season's trade deadline, the Blues acquired St. Louis-born Cam Janssen. With Turnbull, McRae and Janssen, the Blues should have a decidedly hometown feel.

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