St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo Poised For Career Year

© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues unwrapped a somewhat hidden present in Alex Pietrangelo after the team traded Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline last season.

Pietrangelo, 27, recorded a career-high 14 goals in 2016-17 and finished 41st in the league for takeaways and fifth among defensemen in the same category. He also finished 14th in the league in turnover plus-minus, behind only Jaccob Slavin for defensemen.


The Ontario native was originally drafted fourth overall in 2008 and showed another level following Shattenkirk's departure, scoring five goals and 18 points in 20 games.


After the trade, eight of Pietrangelo's 18 points came on the power play, where he took over the top spot that had belonged to Shattenkirk for the past several seasons.


His scoring pace following the trade is comparable to that of Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, and Erik Karlsson; the trio finished first, second, and third in defensive scoring in 2016-17. 


In order to reach those heights as a defenseman, Pietrangelo needs a spot on St. Louis's the top power unit. Leading up to the Shattenkirk deal, Pietrangelo had scored just 11 power play points in 60 games on the second unit.


Burns, Hedman, and Karlsson were three of four defensemen to record 25 or more power play points and finish top-four in defensive scoring. Shattenkirk is the fourth.


Pietrangelo's 20-game production over an 82-game pace would round out to 32 power play points, which would have placed him second in the league, behind only Hedman.


St. Louis also converted on 21.3% of power plays, which could help Pietrangelo surpass his career high of 51 points, which he recorded in the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons.


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Pietrangelo has widely been underutilized during his seven-year career and remains an underrated player for what he provides his team.


He was a stable depth defenseman on Team Canada for its gold medal performance at the 2014 Olympic Games and the 2016 World Cup.


But the 27-year-old is just entering his prime years, as are Blues forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and newcomer Brayden Schenn. Then there's Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Sobotka, and Patrik Berglund who remain strong NHL forwards.


An increase in ice time will also support Pietrangelo in achieving new career highs. He finished eighth last season in average time on ice, playing 25:16 per game. As St. Louis continues to be annual Stanley Cup contenders, coach Mike Yeo will lean on Pietrangelo as the team's number one defenseman.


Part of his increased ice time can be attributed to being the new power play ace, while another part will be due to his reliability to push play in the right direction as he consistently remains on the right side of the possession numbers.


There is also the need to fill the near-20 minutes of ice time Shattenkirk received each game, and a large chunk of those minutes will fall on Pietrangelo.


Each chip is falling into place for the soon-to-be household name as he cements himself among the elite defensemen of the NHL. 



Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

5 NHL Teams That Could Use Jaromir Jagr In 2017-18

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres

By Jacob Messing

The NHL is a month and a half into free agency, and the growing trend of ageism is claiming another group of veterans.

Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr are just a few of the formidable players still searching for new contracts.

Jagr, 45, remains a force on the ice despite having his worst full season in terms of point production. Last year, he tallied 46 points; the year before, with similar ice time and games played, he reached 66 points. However, he was stuck on a surprisingly underwhelming Florida Panthers team that was dealing with a reconstructed defense, significant injuries, and front-office turmoil.

5 NHL Breakout Candidates For 2017-18

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By Jacob Messing

With each new season, fans get to see breakout performances from some of the NHL’s emerging talent. These budding superstars show glimpses of the league’s future.

While some players are stuck in the developmental level of their careers -- learning hockey at its highest level -- others consistently deliver highlight-reel action every time they step onto the ice. Last season, players such as Viktor Arvidsson, Mikael Granlund, and Nikita Kucherov moved from the former category to the latter. Who could do the same this year?

Introducing The U.S. Olympic Hockey Coaching Staff

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By Jacob Messing

The reality of a 2018 Winter Olympics without NHL players is sinking in after the recent announcement of the U.S. men’s national team’s coaching staff.

Last week, the brass for the United States named its coaches for the upcoming international tournament, starting with Wisconsin Badgers head coach Tony Granato, who will serve in the same role for Team USA.

A Radical Solution To The NHL's Inconsistent Suspension Policy

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

By Jacob Messing

In 2016-17, the NHL had its lowest numbers of suspensions since the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

The number of suspensions, cumulative games lost, and number of NHL teams that had a player suspended were all meaningfully lower than the previous three seasons.

'Soap Hockey' Offers Slippery Alternative To Backyard Pickup Games

The Soap Hockey Project Soap Hockey

By Jacob Messing

What happens when six people try to play hockey on a soap-slicked tarp in the middle of the summertime?

Apparently, they found the answer in Sweden. It’s called “Håsjösåpan,” and it’s sweeping the internet.

No NHL, No Problem: AHL Players With Olympic Potential

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The NHL recently issued a statement to its teams that AHL players can be released for Olympic participation in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

3 NHL Teams That Are Hoping Blue Line Upgrades Lead To Offensive Spark

© Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports NHL: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks

This summer hasn't seen the blockbusters of Taylor Hall for Adam Larson or P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, but a number of teams have completed savvy trades to land experienced, productive defensemen. These moves will prove more important on the ice than they may initially seem on paper. 

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Eastern Conference Team

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The NHL offseason is winding down after a busy summer of high-profile free agency moves, league expansion, and entry draft selections.

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Western Conference Team

© Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports NHL: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets

The 2017-18 fantasy hockey season is approaching fast, and since your league members are already preparing so should you.