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Game Time Prospect Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010

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By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department


"WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS, TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS...":

"...we're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside."

Welcome back for another edition of Game Time Prospect Sunday for the 2010-11 season. In keeping with the origins of the name of the Blues' franchise, you might notice something of a musical theme today...

The season has begun for all of the Blues' prospects, except for collegians Travis Erstad of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Harvard forward Matthew McCollem. From Alaska to Zlin, and all points in between, players with ties to the Blues have kicked off their seasons with varying degrees of success.


"ROLLIN' ON THE RIVER..." AND AWAY FROM IT, TOO:

The Peoria Rivermen have been off to a blistering start, reeling off four wins this week after dropping their home opener on Oct. 8 by a 4-3 score to Manitoba. Coach Jared Bednar's club won home games vs. Milwaukee (3-2) and Rockford (6-2) before embarking on a Texas trip, where thus far the Rivs have been perfect. Friday night, Peoria took it to the San Antonio Rampage by a 6-2 count before traveling to Houston, where they shot down the high-flying Aeros 3-2.

Chris Porter (L) and Dave Scatchard (R)

The Blues went out during the summer with the goal of acquiring some top-notch veterans to bolster a young Peoria lineup this year, and those acquisitions have paid off in spades. 31-year-old Graham Mink, acquired from Florida for d-prospect T.J. Fast, is leading the Rivermen and the AHL in scoring as of this morning with 4-7-11 totals in five games, while journeyman forward T.J. Hensick (2 G, 5 A) and defenseman Nathan Oystrick (3 G, 4 A) are also playing big parts in Peoria's hot start.

Though they're the ones looking up here (at left), veterans Chris Porter (5 GP, 3-2-5, plus-3, 19 PM) and Dave Scatchard (5 GP, 0-5-5, plus-3, 4 PM) are two more players that the youngsters in Peoria are looking up to for leadership this season.

Not to be outdone, however, home-grown prospects are also chipping in. 2005 draftee Nick Drazenovic (5 GP, 3-3-6, plus-2, 2 PP, 1 GW) is on pace for the breakout year he was expecting in 2009-10 before injuries slowed him down, and rookie Phil McRae (5 GP, 2-2-4, 2 PM) is emerging as the power forward he was projected to be when the Blues snagged him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

The defense has been solid as well, with first-year pro Mark Cundari (2008 junior free agent) emerging as a key contributor with five points -- all assists -- thus far. Cundari was among the plus-minus leaders in the Ontario League last season with a glittering plus-45 mark, and his plus-3 is among the leaders for the Rivermen this year as well. In the nets, prospects Ben Bishop and Jake Allen have combined for a solid 2.40 GAA and 92.9% save percentage.


"BACK IN THE U.S.S.R." FOR OUR FEATURED PROSPECT OF THE WEEK:

The Game Time featured prospect this week is forward Sergei Andronov of the legendary Russian side CSKA Moscow.

Drafted by the Blues in the third round (78th overall) of the 2009 Entry Draft, Andronov has made a name for himself in Russia as a smooth-skating winger with excellent mobility, balance and hands. Not a particularly physical player, Andronov nevertheless has a nose for the net, and likes to carry the puck through the neutral and offensive zones. At age 21, he has been a regular in the KHL and its predecessor, the Russian Superleague, for three seasons.

Andronov Prospect File

(LINK here to SB Nation asset file for the above graphic.)

Take a look this clip from the 2009 World Juniors in Ottawa, in which Andronov (#16) appears several times. At about 2:30, Andronov is screening the Slovak goalie on Sergei Goncharov's goal. He makes some sweet passes to set up a pair of goals by Nikita Filatov, one from behind the net to the low slot at about 4:15, and one to Filatov for a one-timer from the high slot at about 7:30. At about 8:35, you can see Andronov scoring one himself, with a nice bit of stickhandling in tight while driving the net.

The 2009 World Junior tournament is where Andronov really got noticed, thanks to plays like you saw in the video clip, and the Blues are hoping he can develop that talent further and bring it across the pond sooner rather than later. Prior to this year's Entry Draft, Jeremy Rutherford wrote a piece for the Post-Dispatch in which he referred to Andronov as one of the team's top six forward prospects. The selection of Jaden Schwartz and Andronov's countryman Vladimir Tarasenko may have pushed Andronov a little further down on that list, but the slick Russian remains a prospect to keep an eye on for the near future.


"WEE-EELLL... IT'S THE BIG SHOW...":

No, we're not talking about The World's Largest Athlete from the WWE... we mean THE Big Show, the National Hockey League, where two members of the Tomorrow's Blues family earned some notice this week.

First of all, congratulations to prospect Ryan Reaves on his short-lived National Hockey League debut last Tuesday vs. the Anaheim Ducks. The son of former CFL running back Willard Reaves has the size and attitude of a football player, and after three years toiling in Peoria, the man whom we here at the Game Time Prospect Department call "Rhino" brought those attributes up to the NHL this week.

Kyle Chipchura of the Ducks won't soon forget Reaves' NHL debut, we think.

Also, the McClement Movement -- to raise awareness of 2001 draftee (57th overall) Silent Jay McClement's suitability for the Frank J. Selke Trophy -- is in full swing. We here at the Game Time Prospect Department are throwing our whole weight behind this grassroots effort to bring well-deserved recognition to a member of Tomorrow's Today's Blues who may well be the best defensive forward in the NHL right now.

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"MIGHT AS WELL JUMP (JUMP!)...":

"...go ahead and jump."

After the jump, this week's "Fab Five" of players in the organization who are "Trending Up." We have a repeat "offender" in the mix this week -- a player who is emerging as quite the surprise for his junior club -- as well as a pair of goaltenders. Stay tuned...

Trending Up header

Cody BEACH Ben BISHOP Mark CUNDARI Nick DRAZENOVIC Paul KARPOWICH
Beach Bishop Cundari Drazenovic Karpowich
** 3 games played this week ** 3 games played this week ** 4 games played this week ** 4 games played this week ** 2 games played this week
** 2 G, 2 A, plus-6 ** 180 mins, 6 GA, 3-0-0 ** 0 G, 5 A, plus-3 ** 3 G, 2 A, plus-3 ** 119 mins, 3 GA, 1-1-0
** 11 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW ** 2.00 GAA, 94.2% sv pct ** 6 PM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW ** 0 PM, 2 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW ** 1.51 GAA, 94.4% sv pct, SO