Hello my fellow readers. My name is Ben Bean and I’m a new staff writer for Bleedin’ Blue. I’m new to this site, but I will be helping Alex cover prospects for the St. Louis Blues. So, without further adieu, let’s talk about the Blues’ top defensive prospect, Ian Cole.
The 2006-2007 St. Louis Blues were a team that needed to rebuild. Finishing 15 points out of a playoff spot and allowing over three goals per contest was an improvement to finishing dead last in the league, but roster changes needed to be made, especially at the defensive position. For their 18th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, St. Louis selected defensemen Ian Cole.
The 19-year old had been playing in the North American Hockey League for the past two years, and had a good amount of potential. Cole would go on to play three seasons for the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish. His first two seasons at Notre Dame saw Cole play 81 games and obtain 46 points (14G, 32A). In 2008, the team made it to its first ever Frozen Four. In 2009, Cole was called up to play for the Peoria Rivermen. In 2010, Cole would make his NHL debut for St. Louis.
The Blues have used the defensemen sparingly over the past couple of seasons. In 52 games with the club, the Ann Arbor native has tallied up 10 points and has an impressive +/- rating of 13. He has also racked up two games of playoff experience (pictured).
With the NHL currently locked out, Cole has spent the 2012-2013 season playing for the Peoria Rivermen. He failed to earn a point in his first nine games, but considering he spent the majority of last season watching the Blues from the stands, this wasn’t a huge surprise. Despite his slow start this season, Cole now leads Peoria defensemen in points with 10 (3G, 7A), and all those points have come in the last 13 games.
The now 23-year-old has come a long way since being drafted. At 6’1″ and 225 pounds, Cole has the size and strength to make plays at the NHL level. The big question many have of Cole is if he can improve his offense. Cole is still a work in progress, but this aspect of his game has improved dramatically. Cole already possesses an above average shot, but his passing has definitely gone up a notch, especially passes out of the defensive zone. If it weren’t for Peoria’s struggling offense this year (2.27 GPG), Cole could easily have better offensive numbers to show for.
Defensively, Cole is as solid as they come. He is a well positioned player, and he has the ability to throw the body around. Earlier this year, in a game against the Rockford IceHogs, Cole absolutely annihilated Brandon Pirri with a good, clean, open ice hit. This is the kind of stuff St. Louis fans can look forward to seeing from the young defensemen.
Last summer there were talks that the Blues would sign a defensemen. With Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak, Kris Russell, and Cole the only NHL ready blueliners on the roster, the Blues opted not to sign an extra player at the back end. This would have given Cole the chance to be a regular player in the NHL. If the lockout ends and there is an NHL season this year (I believe there will be), there is no reason to think Cole won’t be in the running to get substantial playing time with St. Louis.
Looking back at that 2006-2007 Blues team, obviously many improvements have been made. St. Louis does lack defensive depth, as of now, but the players they have in place will help the team become a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. Number 23 will certainly be in the mix.