By Brad Lee
Well the Blues' front office held true to its word during the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft Friday night in Ottawa.
The team didn't trade down like it did a year ago and kept the No. 4 overall pick. They chose defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. We're sure the Game Time Prospect Department will be by to write a post breaking down the pick along with the other prospects entering the organization during the rest of the draft Saturday, but we wanted to get some information out there and then leave the comments open to everyone's opinion on the pick. (We'll probably have an open thread to discuss the rest of the draft after this post.)
Pietrangelo is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 206 pounds. In the Ontario Hockey League last year, the defenseman scored 13 goals and 53 total points in 60 games.
The big, talented defenseman has been favorably compared* to a young Chris Pronger. E.J. McGuire, the NHL's director of Central Scouting, told the Post-Dispatch: "He might have the best top-end (potential), and he might have the most under the cover that an 18-year-old could blossom into maybe the best player in the entire 2008 draft. He has Pronger-like size and visibility attributes. A lot of scouts say that he might be playing better now than Pronger played when he was in his last year of junior."
*Of course these comparisons by TSN during the draft are dangerous. When a fan hears that his or her team just drafted a guy who compares to Ray Bourque, one of the best all-around defenseman in the league in the last 20 years, the fan has to believe the team just drafted a perennial all-star and Norris Trophy candidate. What if he's just good but not great? And why was every player compared to a really, really good player? It reminded me of the line in "Bull Durham" when Annie tells crash that in a former life she might have been somebody like Cleopatra. Crash Davis says, "Why is it that when anyone says they were someone in a former life, they always choose someone famous? Why couldn't they be a schmuck?"
Pietrangelo suffered a lacerated spleen and came down with mono late in the season. So his conditioning isn't what it should be. There is hope he'll get stronger and add some bulk. The TSN broadcast said he was just recently cleared to resume skating and training.
The National Post in Canada said this about the newest Blues prospect:
Pietrangelo represented Team Canada at the 2007 Ivan Hlinka Under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic. He also participated in the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic and the 2008 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game.
The 18-year-old plays with poise and is smart with and without the puck. Pietrangelo seems to slow the game down and has great vision, making excellent reads at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Something called the Sports Network had an up and down take on the draft pick.
Pietrangelo is a highly-skilled defensive prospect out of the OHL. The 18-year-old is the sixth-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and the fifth-rated defenseman on that list. Pietrangelo is not an explosive skater, but has the overall offensive skill set to quarterback a power play. He is also still growing into his frame and should project as a physical defenseman in the NHL.
TSN said this about Pietrangelo before the draft:
The 6'3" Pietrangelo is a big, mobile puck mover who makes doing things with the puck appear easy. Scouts believe his upside is huge because he's only just started to tap into his physical presence and as he matures they believe he could be a dominant force at both ends of the ice.
Finally, we'll leave you with the following profile at MyNHLDraft.com:
Pietrangelo is showing why most 'experts' think he is a lock to be a top 5 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft in Ottawa.
The only knock on him was that he was not physical enough. We agreed with that and it's clear to us that Alex heard the talk.
He has stepped up his physical game a bit but it's his smarts and poise that we love so much. It almost seems like he's not trying at times because he makes it all look so easy. Alex is so smart with and without the puck. He is one of those players that seems to slow the game down, his vision on the ice is outstanding. He makes great reads on when to hold the blueline and has a knack for keeping the puck in.
He consistantly sports a great plus/minus and averages almost a point per game. He makes great reads on the powerplay and like all great players, he makes players around him better. Petro's top end potential ceiling is very high, we expect him to be a top end NHL'er for many years.
Through all hype Alex just keeps everything under control and puts the team first. He is the most mature 17 year old I have ever met, I swear he's 27.
So Blues fans, what's your opinion of Alex Pietrangelo? Make your case for or against the pick in the comments.