March 01, 2012
Alex Pietrangelo: A Lot To Like In St. Louis
With a win in Vancouver tonight the St. Louis Blues could take over first place in the entire National Hockey League.
What a turnaround season for the Blues. For the past couple of years more than a few pundits expected St. Louis to emerge as a power in the west. It took a coaching change, but not even Ken Hitchcock could have dreamed for this. If the return of Andy McDonald can help out their average offense, they will be especially dangerous this post season. David Perron is back and producing. And I've long been fan of Alex Steen. He is arguably the Blues most versatile player. If they can get him back from concussion for the playoffs, look out!
The Blues are very hard to play against. Led by big bodies like David Backes and T.J. Oshie, the St. Louis Blues are the Western version the Boston Bruins. Granted they do not have hulking Zdeno Chara swatting away the opposition, but in Alex Pietrangelo they have one of the best young defensemen in the game.
Pietrangelo, who just turned 22, has shown tremendous growth and consistency in his first two years in the league. He surprises goalies with several velocities on his shot. With the puck he is already one of best break out passers in the game. He plays with poise and calmness that defies his youth. He will wait for the right play to materialize, or use his mobility to rush the puck to the neutral zone.
Defensively he is smart and will only get better in his positioning and gap control with more experiencing. Tall and lanky, he is nimble for his size. Once he fills out a bit more he will be that much more commanding, though outside of some fun open ice hits he is not an intimidating physical player. He wields his stick expertly to break up passes. He is also a top shot blocker.
If they named the Canadian Olympic team today there is no doubt Pietrangelo would be one of Canada's top 7. After all, he was named as the "Best Defenseman" at the 2011 World Hockey Championships. He has also won gold (2009) and silver (2010) at the World Juniors.
It is somehow fitting that Alex Pietrangelo wears #27 because several aspects of his game remind me of Scott Niedermayer. Like Niedermayer, Alex Pietrangelo might just prove to be Canada's top defenseman for several years to come.
Fun Fact: Alex Pietrangelo's father is a cousin of former NHL goalie Frank Pietrangelo