Friday, September 10, 2010

Blues prospects ready for Traverse City

Pietrangelo, Cole among players participating for St. Louis

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- For Alex Pietrangelo, it will be a recurring theme the next few days in Michigan.

The Blues' defensive prospect and team's No. 1 pick (fourth overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft has been a participant in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament the last two seasons. When the Blues prospects face Tampa Bay's prospects Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Pietrangelo will have a leg up on most of his fellow teammates.

So as the "veteran" of the squad making the trek north, the King City, Ontario native offered the best advice he could for those looking to make an impression on Blues management now and for the future.

"Just go out there and do your thing," said Pietrangelo, who has a legitimate shot at making the big squad this season. "Some guys maybe will try and do too much and try to get noticed too much. Just go out there and play your game. That's why guys are here, because of what they did during the season. Just go out there and play the same way."

For others such as defenseman Ian Cole (the Blues' No. 1 pick and 18th overall in 2007), who also has an above-average chance of earning one of two slots available on the Blues' back line, it's about showcasing his skill now and getting a leg up when training camp begins within days of the conclusion of the tournament.

"Yeah, getting out there, getting your feet wet, getting up to game speed and play -- actually play, which is something you don't do over the summer," Cole said. "You're kind of floating around, making saucer passes and having a good time. Getting out there and actually playing against guys who are also playing is going to be a good experience.

"Being able to play with those guys and know that that's going to be a steppingstone to where I need to be for camp and ramping that game speed up -- that mental process -- that'll be key."

The Blues will take with them 24 prospects and play in the eight-team tournament beginning today against the Lightning, Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against the Dallas Stars, Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the Detroit Red Wings as well as a final game Wednesday.

"For them, training camp has started," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Now they get a chance to take that one quick practice up to Traverse City and put forth an effort as a team. They're the first group and they're carrying the torch and they're getting us started to this season. It's good to see."

Some familiar names participating in the tournament include forwards Philip McRae, Anthony Nigro, Anthony Peluso, Tyler Shattock and Brett Sonne, defenseman Brett Ponich and goalie Jake Allen.

Everyone involved sees an opportunity to gain an edge when camp begins Sept. 17.

"You're going into main camp already playing games," Pietrangelo said. "You're kind of a step ahead already playing full-contact games and I think that's an advantage we have going to camp."

For both Pietrangelo and Cole particularly, who will be monitored closely, it's an opportunity to gauge their progress as Blues management goes through the selection process of defensemen it will carry this season.

"It's valuable in the way you can't play enough games to gain experience," Payne said. "You have to play them. Alex has been through this tournament a couple times, he's been through the start of training camp so this is a familiar step for him. It gets him up and ready at game speed, which is valuable.

"You look at a guy like Ian, he's in a situation where he's going to get to this tournament, he'll be tested under those conditions from a physical standpoint, from a workload standpoint and it really gives him an opportunity to be sharp from the start of training camp going forward."

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