Alex Pietrangelo has evolved from a top draft pick into one of the best defenders in the league. The St. Louis Blues are now hoping he keeps growing.
Alex Pietrangelo has a strong chance to join those names as some of the best to wear a St. Louis Blues jersey. He’s proven that in eight, short years by evolving into exactly what the Blues needed from him.
The man they call Petro was selected with the fourth overall pick in 2008. Unlike the previous defender taken, Pietrangelo has become exactly the player the Blues wanted.
The Blues, fresh off a disappointing fifth place division finish, found themselves in a position where they could select the best player on the board. Some were hesitant with the Blues taking another defenseman so high in the draft after taking Erik Johnson number one overall just two years prior.
While Johnson has become a very serviceable player, Pietrangelo has quickly become one of the elite men in the game. He has not come too close to winning, but he’s received Norris Trophy votes in four out of the six full seasons he has played in St. Louis.
When Pietrangelo started with the team, most of us were just hoping he’d provide some offense and be a steady player on the blue line. I remember watching him in the World Junior Championships and he was a force.
Team Canada structured their powerplay unit around him, placing him in the slot in a box and one formation. It isn’t something that translated into the pros, but it was an indication of his offensive quality.
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Pietrangelo didn’t disappoint when finally given a full NHL season either. He immediately scored 43 points. Seven goals and four on the powerplay were also part of his rookie stats.
From there, he has pushed himself and gown each season. Pietrangelo’s ice time has increased every single year and in the 2016 playoffs, he averaged almost 30 minutes of time on the ice against some of the league’s most potent offensive teams.
More importantly than numbers, Pietrangelo has quietly formed himself into a respected player both on the Blues and around the league. Before he was made captain of the Blues, he served as captain of Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
He was also named the best defenseman twice on the international level. He won those honors in 2010 at the World Junior Championships and again in 2011 at the Men’s World Championship.
Now, the Blues have handed him the reigns of their team and it could not come at a better time. Pietrangelo has had enough time to grow and learn and is more than ready to take over.
He has played under some of the most sensible, respectable captains in Eric Brewer and David Backes. He’s been able to gain advice and tutelage from guys like Bob Plager, Bernie Federko and MacInnis.
It’s his time now. He’s earned the right to lead.
Not only has he produced the sort of offensive numbers the Blues needed, but he has evolved into one of the league’s best overall players. No, he’s not going to score the fancy goals or throw a bone rattling check.
However, he’s going to do his best to stop some of the league’s best scorers. He’s going to help the Blues win.
With Pietrangelo on the team, the Blues have had some of their best seasons in team history. He’s not the only reason, but he’s a big reason.
He’s gone from quiet kid to confident leader. He will continue to grow and evolve and lead this current group. He is a winner and the team will follow his example.