After the 2007-2008 season, the St. Louis Blues were still in the process of rebuilding. The organization stated that they would build from within. A trade earlier in the year that had sent Keith Tkachuk to the (then existing) Atlanta Thrashers, had also given the Blues much needed draft picks in the 2008 Draft. The Blues would make three selections in the first two rounds. With the fourth overall pick, St. Louis selected defensemen Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues then selected forward Phil McRae with pick number 33. Naturally, a goaltender was next on the list. With the 34th overall pick, the Blues selected goaltender Jake Allen.
Allen was coming off an impressive performance at the World Junior Under-18 tournament, where he had a 6-1 record and a 1.43 GAA. The 19-year-old would go on to play three successful seasons in the QMJHL. In 2010, Allen would be Canada’s starting netminder in the World Junior Championships. He led the team to to the gold medal game, but came up short in a 6-5 overtime loss to Team USA.
The AHL was Allen’s next stop, and he took it by storm. Allen posted an 8-1 record, a 1.27 GAA, a .962 SV%, and 4 shutouts in his first nine starts with Peoria. He actually outperformed Ben Bishop, who was considered the starting goaltender in the 2010-2011 campaign. That season ultimately saw Allen play in 47 games and earn 25 wins (this remains the Rivermen record). The team made it to the playoffs, but suffered a first round loss to the Houston Aeros.
The last season and a half haven’t been as kind to Allen. Since his rookie season, Allen has only obtained 21 victories. This season can simply be described as inconsistent. The season opener saw Allen get pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots after two periods. He currently has a 3.05 GAA and a .902 SV%. These numbers suggest that while Allen allows about three goals per game, he is also facing more than 30 shots per outing.
The Rivermen have been inconsistent as a team all year long actually, especially offensively. A good amount of Allen’s losses are close, low-scoring games where there wasn’t much offense generated from Peoria, but Allen has allowed some games to get away from him (like the season opener). Allen has the ability to steal games, but there have been many games this year where Allen has allowed some very soft goals at the seemingly worst possible time.
Allen’s positional game is relatively solid, and he has really quick legs, which helps him down low substantially. The now 22-year-old’s weakness may very well be shots to the glove side. I don’t know what it is, but Allen seems to have a knack for allowing glove side goals. When it comes to rebound control, #34 is very good. Rarely does Allen allow bad rebounds. Despite the picture above, playing the puck isn’t Allen’s best skill, but this obviously isn’t something looked upon too harshly.
The big question is whether Allen is a future NHL starter, or not. I don’t know whether it will be in St. Louis, or another team, but I believe Allen can be. Goaltending is a tough position, with way fewer available spots then any other position. Allen is still very young and definitely could get a shot in the NHL if he can pick up his play in the future.
With all of the Blues goaltenders in the system, including Halak, Elliott, and backup Canadian goalie for this year’s World Junior Championships Jordan Binnington, the likelihood of Allen being trade bait in the future goes up. Allen isn’t a lost cause yet, but if his play doesn’t start to improve in the next year or so people will start to raise questions of his potential. If his play continues to be subpar, maybe a change of scenery would help.