Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blues' 2011 draft picks get acclimated with St. Louis

Five of eight selected enjoy city, begin destination that ends in NHL

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ty Rattie remembers the first time he went to see professional hockey players in person. It was scenario that only dreams are made of for every young boy.

"I'll always remember when I was younger, I went to a Blues practice in Calgary, went into the dressing room," Rattie recalled. "I met (Keith) Tkachuk, I got Brent Johnson's goalie stick. I got pictures (taken) between Tkachuk and (Pavol) Demitra. That was the best moment of my childhood.

"My mom's kind of a believer in that kind of destiny. I kind of believe her now, too. It's ironic, and I'm going to do everything I can for this organization."

Some dreams are meant to come true, and they certainly did for the Calgary native Rattie.

The Blues' first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft along with four other of the team's draft choices are in town this week partaking in strength and conditioning coach Nelson's Ayotte's summer program and getting familiarized with the organization, the team's training facility, Scottrade Center and the city of St. Louis.
Ty Rattie had 79 points (28 goals) for Portland in WHL last season.

Rattie, picked No. 32 in the second round, saw his dream come true when his name was called out by the Blues.

"That Blues jersey was the first NHL jersey I ever had," said Rattie, who plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. "Doug Weight was my player. I don't know if it's ironic or if it's destiny, but it's pretty cool and I'm real excited to be here.

"I'm not joking when (I say) they were my favorite team growing up."

Also here this week are defenseman Joel Edmundson (second round pick, No. 46 overall), goalie Jordan Binnington (third round pick, No. 88 overall), winger Yannick Veilleux (fourth round pick, No. 102 overall) and center Ryan Tesink (sixth round pick, No. 162 overall). Second round pick Dmitrij Jaskin, fifth round pick Niklas Lundstrom and seventh round pick Teemu Eronen did not attend.

They're soaking up the atmosphere and also getting accustomed to seeing firsthand the first steps to becoming NHL players.

"Last year, I was hoping to make the (Moose Jaw) Warriors at this time," Edmundson said of his WHL team. "It hasn't really sunk in yet. The last year has kind of gone by so fast. It's been unreal for me and everything's falling into place right and I'm just going to run with it and keep on doing what I need to do right.

"Nelson's been training us for the past two days and the workouts are definitely harder. We've seen a couple guys in the gym, a couple of the players and they go all-out. It's a lot of hard work, but it's willing to be done for sure."
Defenseman Joel Edmundson played in Moose Jaw (WHL) last season.

Ayotte, who begins his seventh season as the team's strength and conditioning coach, says it's all a process for the young kids that begins with identifying what they can and can't do.

"We tested them for three hours, physical testing, upper body, lower body," Ayotte said Wednesday morning. "Right now, the goal is to identify what their weaknesses are. After that, then we tailor a program for them and we started to introduce them to that this morning.

"We look at the player first before the position. When we find the player's weak points, then we apply what should be done according to the position they play. ... We start with weight training. Then the following days, we'll talk about nutrition, supplements and things that they've heard in the field because there's a lot of myth, there's a lot of talk. We'll try to demystify all of that."

Most of the players will come away with the notion that they need to get bigger and work on those weaknesses that Ayotte and the rest of the training staff identify.

"I know I have to put on at least 10-15 pounds before I can make it to the next level, but I also don't want to be too big that I can't really skate as good as I can right now," the Brandon, Manitoba native Edmundson said, who stands in at 6-5 and 190 pounds and models himself after Nashville's Shea Weber. "Just a comfort level would be 210. Definitely 15-20 pounds would help me out a lot. But it doesn't matter. I'm just going to play bigger than I am anyway because I'm going to keep being physical and mean."

With the added muscle and leaner bodies comes the sight of meeting current Blues players and watching what experienced NHL players do to get themselves prepped for a new season.

"You walk in here and you see Carlo Colaiacovo and (David) Backes and all these big names," Rattie said. "You watch them and you know what it takes to be here one day. It's outstanding what they do with you here and I've heard so much about Nelson. I'm looking forward to it.

"There's a lot of things I have to improve on to be here, but at the same time, I'm willing to work on that, I'm willing to do anything I can to get here as quickly as I can."

The 6-foot, 170-pound Rattie was ranked 17th out of North American skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting report. Feeling like he was going to go in the first round, Rattie, 18, says the disappointment has worn off and gratitude should be shown in the Blues for grabbing him.

"The Blues didn't have a first round pick obviously, so I'm kind of treating it like I'm their first pick and I've got to prove to those other teams what they passed up on is their mistake," said Rattie, who scored 28 goals and added 51 assists in 67 games a season ago. "I want to help the Blues, I want to help the Blues win a Stanley Cup and I want that to happen as quick as I can."

The players attended Wednesday night's Cardinals-Cincinnati Reds game but it was back to work before all depart on Friday.

"I really just want to soak it all in," Edmundson said. "Learn about the city, meet the guys and learn about the organization. I also now know how much workouts need to be done to get to the next level. Soaking it all in and learning everything I've heard about the next level. It's been good so far, and it's going to be a couple awesome days coming up.

"When I go back to Brandon, I know I'll have to work that much harder and just look forward to coming back here and making the team."

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