Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cole, Drazenovic among final cuts by Blues

Team also options forwards Scatchard,
Porter to Peoria after clearing waivers

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ian Cole did everything asked of him -- and then some -- when it came to the Blues' training camp for 2010-11.

It still wasn't enough. At least not at the present time.

Cole was among a handful of players the Blues assigned to Peoria on Tuesday, ending a very competitive battle for the last remaining spots on the parent club's defensive unit.

The Blues also sent forwards Dave Scatchard, Chris Porter and surprisingly Nick Drazenovic to the team's American League Hockey club in Peoria.

Cole, the 18th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, got word early Tuesday afternoon that he would be joining the Rivermen.

He took the news in stride and offered to work hard and get back as quickly as possible.

"There's not much I can do about it. It's obviously not my choice," a somber Cole said. "I'm heading down (to Peoria) and trying to get back up here as soon as possible. It's obviously not great news, but at the same time, it happens. I've just got to make the best of it."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said it was difficult telling Cole he was the odd man out after playing so well in camp.

"Yeah, it's a very difficult decision," Armstrong said. "That's the hard part of the job that you don't like to have to do ... make a decision like that. Ian played well and did everything he could do, but we think it's a continuation of the growth pattern for Ian. Obviously, he didn't want to hear it, but I'm confident he's taking this with the right attitude. We saw how good he can be at the American level last year. He'll only be that much more prepared to elevate the level he played at last year. Playing those minutes will prepare him more for when the phone call does come to get to the NHL. You never know when that call is going to come."

Cole, who played near or above 20 minutes in each of his five preseason games, was diplomatic when asked about his training camp performance.

"I wouldn't say extremely well, I wouldn't say that I was perfect by any means, but at the same time, I think I definitely gave myself a shot," he said. "I gave myself an opportunity to stay here this long and show that I can play here."

While it's not the ideal situation and Cole arguably outplayed counterparts Alex Pietrangelo and Tyson Strachan -- who made the final cuts -- it might be better off to go play lots of minutes in Peoria rather than being the odd-man out and sitting in the press box with the Blues.

"I understand the situation," Cole said. "They don't want me being here as a seventh guy. I understand that, so I kind of understood what was going on. I wasn't pulling the wool off my own eyes by any means. I understood what was going on. I understand how it works ... it's a business. at the same time, I can only control what I can control, play well and be the guy to come up here the first call-up and hopefully stay up here.

"I think the ice time (in Peoria) is going to be huge, too. Being able to play all the time and get in every situation and really honing in on those skills and getting in mid-season form and getting back as fast as possible; being able to improve and get up here and hopefully make a statement when I get back up here."

The roster cuts now leave the Blues with 21 healthy players, which include 12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. Forward Vladimir Sobotka (shoulder) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (broken wrist) will wind up on injured reserve, leaving the team with 23 players total.

"I think because these are younger players (going to Peoria), we want them playing," Armstrong said. "The proximity of Peoria, it's only three hours away. We don't have an extended road trip, so we can get somebody here on short notice. I'm very comfortable these 21 players are healthy and ready to go. We don't think that Sobotka is that far off either. So there are lots of factors, but we're comfortable having these 21 players here."

With Scatchard and Porter not making the cut, it was believed that Drazenovic would make the final roster and leave the team with 13 healthy forwards. Blues coach Davis Payne raved about Drazenovic's play, saying: "We think he's really had a good camp ... with versatility in a lot of different roles, center, on the wing, the ability to play an energy game, the ability to play a skill game. He gives us a lot of options there. Not only do we feel he's taken a really good step, he's performed well and gives us lots of versatility up front."

Drazenovic, the team's sixth round pick (171st overall) in 2005, was then interviewed by reporters about making the cut and seemed genuinely pleased with the developments, saying: "I'm pretty excited about still being here. I took it a day at a time. There's still 14 forwards here when Sobotka gets back, so I just got to focus day-to-day and play my best."

But moments later, he was optioned to Peoria.

"I thought he had a very good camp," Armstrong said of Drazenovic. "He's a player who I didn't know quite a bit. (Blues director of professional scouting and Peoria GM) Kevin McDonald spoke well of him before his (thumb) injury last year. What we told him, he's worked his way up the depth chart. He has to go down and play well so if we make the phone call, he's the name. He can play a lot of different roles. I was very impressed with the steps he's taken. He's gone from a player that was going to play in the minor league to a legitimate depth player. He has to continue to grow on that. He had excellent camp, one of the pleasant surprises."

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