HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- If 2019 ends the way 2018 did for St. Louis Blues prospect Scott Perunovich, the 19-year-old defenseman will have no objections.
Perunovich, a second-round pick (No. 45) in the 2018 NHL Draft, will play his junior season at the University of Minnesota Duluth and go for a repeat as national champion after Perunovich and the Bulldogs won their second NCAA title (they also won in 2011).
"We barely got into the tournament," Perunovich said during Blues developmental camp last month. "It was supposed to be a rebuilding year and we had a young [defense] corps. Our oldest person was a sophomore. To be able to pull that off when no one thought you would is pretty special."
Perunovich, who said he models his game after Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, will try to build on his performance of last season, when he had 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 42 games with Minnesota Duluth. The Blues will be keeping close tabs on his progress.
"He's a late bloomer," St. Louis director of ameteur scouting Bill Armstrong said of Perunovich. "Yeah, you can put him in that category. What caught my eye were our two area scouts, Keith Tkachuk and J Niemiec, were relentlessly forwarding me video on him and saying, 'You better go back to see him, you better go back.'
"They wore us down to the point where we just had to go back and as we went back and watched him, we fell in love with the kid. He's still got work to do, but there's something good there."
Perunovich, who had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games to help the United States win the bronze medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, said it was frustrating at times having to wait as long as he did to get drafted, but he used it as a source of motivation.
"It was tough," Perunovich said. "It was definitely disappointing the first two years not getting drafted, but I think it makes it a lot more special being my last year to go to St. Louis. I had a meeting with them the first day of the Draft and I had a good feeling. I liked the people I talked to there. I kind of felt like I did when I was touring (Minnesota Duluth), kind of the same homey feeling. I was excited to be a part of their organization."
Which made it even more gratifying to hear his name called at the Draft after being bypassed in his first two years of eligibility, thanks to his strong performance at Minnesota Duluth and in the WJC.
"Years of relief finally to know hard work pays off and I just had a goal and I was able to achieve it," Perunovich said. "That was one of the best feelings I've ever had."