By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
THE SHOW MUST GO ON:
Back in the middle of the last century, there was a saying in the entertainment industry that if a movie or a stage production would "play in Peoria," that meant the production had broad appeal, as Peoria was considered a microcosm of the United States.
Over the last decade or so, however, the Blues have had some difficulty getting their European prospects to play in Peoria, due to the middle-American, small-town feel and image of the city.
To be sure, there have been many other excuses given as to why high-profile Euro draft picks like Marek Schwartz and Jonas Junland bailed on Peoria and the Blues' organization, and why other picks like Carl Soderberg and Konstantin Barulin refused to come over at all... but in the final analysis, these players and others seem to have viewed Peoria as a Podunk minor-league town, in a league where players ride the bus to other Podunk minor-league towns.
The good news is that recent trends in the Blues' organization suggest that Peoria, and the organization itself, are beginning to shake off that image. Roman Polak is an example of a European draft pick who served his time in Peoria and has since developed into a legitimate top four NHL defenseman. 2010 pick Sebastian Wännström recently announced that he would be coming over, and that he would willingly accept assignment to Peoria if that's what it took to prove himself to the Blues' brass, and 2009 pick Sergei Andronov signed an AHL contract with Peoria in order to find a hockey home for this season.
With Wännström and Andronov committed to Peoria, along with Evgeny Grachev, the floodgates have begun to creak open for Euros in Peoria... and some developments this week in regards to the immediate future of a very high-profile Euro draft pick may just force those floodgates all the way open:
Fellow Blues' blogger Jeff Quirin at HockeyBuzz.com, using Andy Strickland as a source, suggests that the "last minute demands" made of SKA by Team Tarasenko included a request for an "out clause" to allow Tarasenko to leave the bright lights and cosmopolitan atmosphere of St. Petersburg for Peoria and the AHL if SKA did not give him a significant increase in ice time over the approximately 11:00 per game he was given with them last year after being traded from his hometown Sibir Novosibirsk club in mid-season.
The thinking seems to be that Tarasenko is at the stage of his career where he needs to play big minutes every night in order to maximize his potential, and first-line minutes in the AHL are better for his development at this time than fourth-line minutes in the KHL. Your "Game Time" Prospect Department is 100% on board with this particular line of thinking... and it should also be noted that the presence in Peoria of a legitimate international star like Tarasenko can only boost both the Rivs' game attendance figures and their visibility in the central Illinois community.
Tarasenko starting his North American pro career in AwesomeTown is a win-win for everyone involved -- for the Blues, for the Rivermen, for Tarasenko, and for the city of Peoria.
Players report to Peoria on Friday for physicals, and the team's first skate at Carver Arena is Saturday, per per Dave Eminian's Twitter feed. So by this time next week, we will know for sure if Tarasenko will "play in Peoria."
LAST WEEK FOR TOP 20 PROSPECT POLL:
This is it, "Game Time" Nation... for the last few weeks, you've been voting on the top 20 prospects in the Blues' deep and talented player development system, and with this being the last week before Peoria's training camp starts, this marks the last week of voting and brings us to the number 20 spot on the list.
Taking the most votes this week for number 19 on the list was Peoria center Brett Sonne. The six-foot, 200-pound native of Maple Ridge, BC enters his fourth pro season on what may be borrowed time, as far as the Blues are concerned. An 11-goal, 24-point rookie season in 77 games during the 2009-10 season represents the high-water mark of Sonne's pro career to date, but he has been contributing as a penalty-killer and faceoff man with the Rivermen while trying to get back to his rookie scoring levels.
See the Top 19 prospects in the system, and vote for Number 20, after the jump.
"ST. LOUIS GAME TIME" BLUES TOP 20 PROSPECTS (1 THRU 19) SUMMER 2012:
|RW, shoots L. 5' 11, 210 lbs. Born 12-31-91, Novosibirsk, RUS.||STL 2nd pick (16th overall) in 2010 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Sibir/SKA (KHL)||54 GP, 23-24-47, plus-18, 15 PM, 7 PPG, 0 SHG, 6 GWG. 0.870 Pts/Gm.|
|LW, shoots L. 5' 10, 180 lbs. Born 06-25-92, Melfort, SK.||STL 1st pick (14th overall) in 2010 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Colorado College (WCHA)||30 GP, 15-26-41, plus-6, 18 PM, 5 PPG, 0 SHG, 4 GWG. 1.367 Pts/Gm.|
|RW, shoots R. 5' 11, 170 lbs. Born 02-05-93, Airdrie, AB.||STL 1st pick (32nd overall) in 2011 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Portland (WHL)||69 GP, 57-64-121, plus-23, 54 PM, 26 PPG, 4 SHG, 9 GWG. 1.754 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 6' 01, 225 lbs. Born 02-21-89, Ann Arbor, MI.||STL 2nd pick (18th overall) in 2007 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||St. Louis (NHL)||26 GP, 1-5-6, plus-7, 22 PM, 0 PPG, 0 SHG, 0 GWG. 0.231 Pts/Gm.|
|G, catches L. 6' 02, 195 lbs. Born 08-07-90, Fredericton, NB.||STL 3rd pick (34th overall) in 2008 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||37 GP, 2088 Mins, 99 GA, 1203 SA, 2.84 GAA, 13-19-2, 1 SO, 0.918 Sv %.|
|C, shoots L. 6' 02, 200 lbs. Born 03-15-90, Apple Valley, MN.||STL 2nd pick (33rd overall) in 2008 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||71 GP, 23-16-39, minus-10, 26 PM, 7 PPG, 0 SHG, 2 GWG. 0.549 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 5' 11, 190 lbs. Born 01-15-89, Duluth, MN.||STL 7th pick (96th overall) in 2007 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||68 GP, 8-26-34, plus-26, 32 PM, 2 PPG, 0 SHG, 3 GWG. 0.500 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots R. 6' 02, 189 lbs. Born 10-08-93, Verona, WI.||STL 1st pick (25th overall) in 2008 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Sioux City/Green Bay (USHL)||55 GP, 10-31-41, plus-11, 29 PM, 5 PPG, 1 SHG, 2 GWG. 0.745 Pts/Gm.|
|C, shoots L. 6' 00, 189 lbs. Born 01-11-90, Toronto, ON.||STL 9th pick (155th overall) in 2008 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||75 GP, 13-12-25, plus-12, 36 PM, 2 PPG, 1 SHG, 1 GWG. 0.333 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 6' 07, 225 lbs. Born 02-21-91, Edmonton, AB.||STL 2nd pick (48th overall) in 2009 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||61 GP, 0-5-5, even, 47 PM, 0 PPG, 0 SHG, 0 GWG. 0.082 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 6' 4, 211 lbs. Born 03-31-92, Kirkkonummi, FIN.||STL 5th pick (104th overall) in 2010 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Blues Espoo (FIN)||41 GP, 5-7-12, plus-6, 30 PM, 1 PPG, 0 SHG, 0 GWG. 0.293 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 6' 02, 187 lbs. Born 04-11-94, Edmonton, AB.||STL 5th pick (106th overall) in 2012 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Everett (WHL)||62 GP, 6-12-18, minus-27, 95 PM, 3 PPG, 0 SHG, 1 GWG. 0.290 Pts/Gm.|
|RW, shoots R. 6' 05, 190 lbs. Born 08-08-92, Nanaimo, BC.||STL 6th pick (134th overall) in 2010 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Moose Jaw (WHL)||58 GP, 15-41-56, plus-12, 229 PM, 7 PPG, 0 SHG, 2 GWG. 0.966 Pts/Gm.|
|D, shoots L. 6' 04, 191 lbs. Born 06-28-93, Brandon, MB.||STL 2nd pick (46th overall) in 2011 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Moose Jaw (WHL)||56 GP, 4-19-23, plus-13, 91 PM, 0 PPG, 0 SHG, 2 GWG. 0.411 Pts/Gm.|
|C, shoots L. 5' 11, 160 lbs. Born 05-21-93, Saint John, NB.||STL 6th pick (162nd overall) in 2011 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Saint John (QMJHL)||36 GP, 13-27-40, plus-23, 54 PM, 2 PPG, 3 SHG, 3 GWG. 1.111 Pts/Gm.|
|LW, shoots L. 6' 2, 190 lbs. Born 02-22-93, Ste-Hipolytte, PQ.||STL 4th pick (102nd overall) in 2011 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Shawinigan (QMJHL)||59 GP, 27-31-58, plus-21, 69 PM, 11 PPG, 0 SHG, 6 GWG. 0.983 Pts/Gm.|
|RW, shoots R. 6' 0, 187 lbs. Born 03-03-91, Gävle, SWE.||STL 3rd pick (44th overall) in 2010 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Brynäs Gävle (SEL)||43 GP, 8-7-15, minus-5, 20 PM, 0 PPG, 0 SHG, 4 GWG. 0.349 Pts/Gm.|
|LW, shoots L. 6' 04, 224 lbs. Born 02-21-90, Khabarovsk, RUS.||NYR 3rd pick (75th overall) in 2008 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||39 GP, 3-7-10, minus-4, 18 PM, 2 PPG, 0 SHG, 0 GWG. 0.256 Pts/Gm.|
|C, shoots L. 6' 00, 200 lbs. Born 03-16-89, Maple Ridge, BC.||STL 3rd pick (85th overall) in 2007 Entry Draft.|
|2011-12||Peoria (AHL)||70 GP, 8-9-17, minus-9, 40 PM, 0 PPG, 1 SHG, 1 GWG. 0.243 Pts/Gm.|