Monday, July 7, 2014

Blues' future on display this week

Prospects camp being held at Ice Zone 
through Wednesday, with 22 top players on hand

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- For the first time since before the Dave Checketts era, the future of the Blues franchise was on display in the summer months of St. Louis.

Blues prospects have converged on St. Louis this week as the franchise has reinstalled the prospects camp, with 22 of the organization's top prospects on hand to give Blues fans, who were out in full force at St. Louis Outlet Mall's Ice Zone to witness firsthand, a glimpse of what the future of the Blues will look like.

Nine of the Blues' 10 picks from the draft that just recently concluded in Philadelphia two weeks ago were on hand, including first-round pick (21st) Robby Fabbri, who scored 45 goals and had 87 points in 58 regular season games for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, who won a title this past season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman and 2012 first round pick Jordan Schmaltz is on hand this
week at the prospects camp.

"It was fun finally putting on the jersey, the fans and everything like that," Fabbri said. "Such a great organization and you can tell that by the fans out there that it's a great city to play in.

"This is when your career starts and you want to start off on the right foot and you want to work as hard as you can every time you get the opportunity to prove what you can do."

Blues brass, including owner Tom Stillman, general manager Doug Armstrong, vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor, senior advisor to the GM Al MacInnis and coach Ken Hitchcock were on hand to observe the prospects.

"For most of the players, this is the first look for us, too," Hitchcock said. "So I think just being able to visit with them, talk to them and hopefully try to educate them on what it takes to be a professional because they really got almost a full two months before they get going here. They really have an opportunity to do some real good, hard work in the off-season here."

Second round pick (33rd overall in 2014) Ivan Barbashev, who had 25 goals and 68 points in 48 regular season games for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, comes in with extra motivation. 

After being touted as a mid-first round pick before the draft, the Russian native didn't have to wait long into the second round before the Blues selected Barbashev but the center/wing feels like there's extra incentive to prove the naysayers wrong because of what is being dubbed the Russian factor.

There have been many Russian prospects in the past that have been touted as first round talent but teams have shied away from them because of the fear those players will never come to North America. 

"It's not my fault a lot of the guys before me did that," Barbashev said. "I just didn't think about that. I forgot about it. For sure I'm (motivated). I'm here now and I think I need one year to get stronger and bigger. I'll probably be ready then for sure. I think I'll be playing in Moncton next year. I need one more year.

"It's a lot of fun to be a part of the Blues organization. Great players are here."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues prospects, including Austin Poganski (47), Robby Fabbri (12) and
Colton Parayko (78), listen to instructions from coach Sean Farrell.

The camp is being run by Blues director of player development Tim Taylor, video coach Sean Farrell and minor league goaltending coach Ty Conklin.

"Every year we come here, it's good to learn new things and be able to take new things back, especially skating this year," said defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, the team's first round pick (25th) in 2012 who will play again at the University of North Dakota again this fall after a six-goal, 24-point season in 2013. "Hopefully we pick up on a few drills or whatever it may be. Come in here with open ears and take everything in. Hopefully take back some things wherever you're from."

The players come in in the morning and do weight training before on-ice drills. Tuesday and Wednesday, players will be divided into two groups and hit the ice beginning at 2 p.m. Sessions are open and free to the public.

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