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Undrafted Appleby aims to get noticed at Blues camp

by Louie Korac

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It's not often the player who gets to stare down Connor McDavid comes away from the competition and can claim they got the best of the Edmonton Oilers phenom.

Goalie Ken Appleby is an exception.

Appleby not only helped the Oshawa Generals win the Memorial Cup last season, making 37 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory against the Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets in the championship game, he was able to look McDavid and the Erie Otters in the eye and win the Ontario Hockey League's Robertson Cup along the way.

It's been quite the ride for the 20-year-old North Bay, Ontario, native, who is participating in St. Louis Blues development camp this week.

"It's very special," the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Appleby said of facing McDavid in the OHL championship series. "To play against one of the best two-way players in the world, that was pretty cool, and to see what he's going to become in his career, it's pretty special. It was a pretty cool experience.

"It's something every junior player strives for at the start of the year. To be able to get that final win of the season is pretty cool."

Nobody can really say why Appleby has been passed over at the NHL Draft three years in a row given his success in junior. This time around, Appleby, who will attend New Jersey Devils development camp next week, was glad to get a call from Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur during the draft.

Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong asked Brodeur at the draft if he could reach out to Appleby to see if he'd be interested in coming to their camp should he again go undrafted.

It helps that Appleby's teammate and goalie partner in Oshawa has been Brodeur's son, Jeremy, who also is attending Blues camp this week.

"I think it was a tough day for him not getting drafted," Martin Brodeur said. "... I called him in the seventh round and said, 'Listen, regardless of what happens in the seventh round, if it doesn't come your way, we're interested to see you. We don't have a draft pick in the seventh round, so we can't pick you.' Right away, he was intrigued about it. I think it's a good experience for him.

"He's a big goalie; I think it's hard not to give him a look. He's a kid with success and a track record; that's what it's all about. He's paid his dues sitting behind a goalie in Oshawa and got the job as No. 1. I was interested in him.

"It's got to be a little disappointing for a young kid when you have so much success and then you've got so much upside as far as your size and the skill set that you have, then you get passed over. But now I think it opens up the League to him instead of getting caught in an organization where he would get picked and then he would have no chance to move on. Now he'll be able to pick something and make the right decision."

Ken Appleby won the Ontario Hockey League's Robertson Cup last season. (Photo: St. Louis Blues)

Appleby said the chat with Martin Brodeur was helpful, but not the deciding factor.

"I just think it's a great organization," Appleby said of the Blues. "I talked to Marty and he knows my friend Jeremy obviously. There's a little bit of a connection there, but I just thought this was a great place to come to and one of my better opportunities.

"Being third year eligible to be drafted, I didn't really expect much. I had heard some talks, but to not be drafted is kind of a good opportunity for me to be able to choose teams like St. Louis or whoever else gives me offers for camps so I can kind of choose which way I want to go. It's a good position."

Appleby was 38-7-4 with a 2.08 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and six shutouts during the regular season with the Generals, then went 16-5 with a 2.24 GAA, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in the postseason.

He's at Blues camp to try to make an impression.

"Get a little experience. Hopefully something comes of this down the road a bit, maybe sign, who knows?" Appleby said. "If not, then I'll have this experience and go back to junior and hopefully use it for another year in junior.

"In the end, we decided St. Louis and New Jersey were (some) of our better choices and also the dates kind of matched up as well. ... If something doesn't work out, you can always go back to junior and just try to do your best there and hopefully an opportunity arises after that."

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