Blues junior prospects 2008-09 review

By Joseph Cassidy

OHL

Alex Pietrangelo, D – Niagara IceDogs
6’3, 206
1st round, 4th overall, 2008

At the beginning of the 2008-09 season, it looked like Pietrangelo might crack the St. Louis Blues lineup. He played eight solid games for the Blues and averaged 21 shifts per game before he was returned to his junior team. Pietrangelo’s impact upon his return to the Niagara IceDogs is beyond measurement. The team captain is a stalwart on the IceDogs blueline and he quarterbacks the power-play unit, kills penalties and makes his teammates better players. In 36 OHL games this season, he had 29 points (eight goals and 21 assists).

In December of 2008, Pietrangelo was picked for the Canadian World Junior squad. He scored one goal and two assists in six games as the team went undefeated and won the gold medal in Ottawa. Pietrangelo also was picked to the 2008-09 OHL Eastern Conference all-star team and contributed three assists in the one-game showdown against the Western Conference all-stars.

Pietrangelo is a highly-skilled puck handler who creates many goal-scoring opportunities with his ability to move the puck into the offensive zone. The young defenseman will be attending the Blues training camp this fall and one shouldn’t bet against his chances of playing in the NHL in the near future. 

“Not only is Pietrangelo a great motivator with a positive attitude,” said Niagara IceDogs head coach Mario Cicchillo, “he is also a great role model for the younger guys on our team.”

The IceDogs lost to the Belleville Bulls in the semifinals of the OHL Eastern Conference playoffs. In 11 playoff games Pietrangelo has a goal, four assists and 18 penalty minutes.

Philip McRae, F – London Knights
6’2, 187
2nd round, 33rd overall, 2008

McRae is continually improving as a player and the Blues recognized his progress by signing him to a pro contract in March. In 2008-09 he scored 29 goals and added 31 assists for the Knights in 59 games. After going pointless in his first two seasons of playoff games for the Knights, he has risen to the occasion in the 2009 playoffs by contributing four goals and two assists in nine games.

After playing for the USA under-18 squad in April of 2008, he attended the USA World Junior Team tryouts in Lake Placid during the summer of 2008. Unfortunately, a bout of mononucleosis derailed his hopes of making the team and the side effects from his sickness sidelined him for the first nine games of the 2008-09 OHL season. Depending on where he lands in the fall of 2009, one would guess, McRae would love another shot at cracking the USA World Junior lineup.

McRae is offensively skilled with good vision, a hard, accurate shot and the ability to win face-offs. He will continue to fill out and should top 200 pounds in the not too distant future. Currently, he is working on his foot speed, quickness and explosiveness.

The Knights made it to the OHL Western Conference finals, after losing only one game in the first two rounds.

Anthony Nigro, C – Ottawa 67’s
6’0, 189
6th round, 155th overall, 2008

A 2008-09 mid-season trade which saw Nigro move from the Guelph Storm to the Ottawa 67’s, was a real blessing in disguise for the 19-year-old’s confidence. After 25 games in Guelph, he had scored seven goals and chipped in 11 assists. In 42 games in Ottawa, Nigro fired 23 goals, with 28 assists to power the 67’s to a third-place finish in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. In addition, he also contributed eight power-play goals after scoring zero in Guelph.

To sum it all up, Nigro had his best year as a hockey player with 69 points in 67 games played and a +17. The Blues will surely look forward to seeing him perform in their upcoming rookie summer camp.

Nigro continued his more than a point-a-game average in Ottawa’s first-round playoff series by matching his four goals scored with an equal number of assists in seven games.

Anthony Peluso, F – Brampton Battalion
6’4, 235
6th round, 160th overall, 2007

The 2008-09 season has been all about change for this fourth-year veteran of the OHL. In the last year, Peluso has changed teams from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to the Brampton Battalion; Peluso has changed positions from defense to right wing and has changed his financial status; went from drafted free agent to signing a pro contract with the St. Louis organization in March 2009.

The results of all this change in Peluso’s hockey world have been remarkable. After contributing 15 points while playing the first 36 games of the 2008-09 season with Sault Ste. Marie, Peluso has tallied 28 points while playing in 27 regular-season games and eight playoff games with the Battalion. These offensive numbers are highlighted by the fact that he never tallied more than 15 points in any of his first three seasons in the OHL. And his combined plus/minus rating for his first three seasons in the league was -58, in 35 games with Brampton he is a +17.

It seems shedding his defensive skin and tough guy role has been the magic elixir for this suddenly solid offensive contributor, but don’t be mistaken, this guy can still fight. Next stop for Peluso – the St. Louis Blues rookie camp.

Brampton defeated the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the second round of the 2009 OHL playoffs.

James Livingston, F – Sault Ste. Marie
6’1, 200
3rd round, 70th overall, 2008

The 2008-09 season was a slight step backwards for this talented winger. Although Livingston had his second 20-goal season in a row, he notched only 17 assists for a total of 37 points in 66 games played. His total penalty minutes dropped to 98 for the season, but the concerning number this past season was his plus/minus rating. After a positive plus/minus rating in 2007-08, his -26 rating for 2008-09 is not a feather in his cap. He played on a team that only posted 19 regular-season wins, but there should have been bigger offensive numbers for this top-line forward.

The Sault Ste. Marie team did not qualify for post-season play.

WHL

Brett Sonne, F – Calgary Hitmen
6’0, 184
3rd round, 85th overall, 2007

To say Sonne had a good 2008-09 regular season is a mild understatement. The center forward had exactly 100 points (48 goal and 52 assists) in 62 games for the Calgary Hitmen, who finished at the top of the WHL with an incredible 59-9-3-1 record. To complement his scoring, Sonne finished the season with a +35 plus/minus rating and a team-high 16 power-play goals. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa and picked up three points (a goal and two assists) in the tournament.

In 2007-08, Sonne was listed at 5’11 and 200 pounds but he has slimmed down to 184 pounds and grown an extra inch. The 16-pound weight difference has definitely pushed Sonne to a whole new level. The Blues signed him to his first pro contract in March 2009.

The Hitmen are currently 8-0 in the 2009 WHL playoffs, and Sonne has two assists in three games.

Ian Schultz, F – Calgary Hitmen
6’2, 200
3rd round, 87th overall, 2008

Schultz has grown an inch and gained 20 pounds. He has improved his points totals to 41 points in 58 games in 2009. He is a +19 this year over of a +10 last year.

The Calgary Hitmen are the cream of the crop in the WHL and their penalty-killing unit was second in the league – which is good for a penalty-prone player like Schultz.

Over the last two seasons, Schultz has been in 31 fights, so it will be interesting to see him showcase his talents in the big show’s casting calls this summer. But he’s destined for another year of junior hockey in any case.

In the playoffs, Schultz has three points in six games.

QMJHL

Jake Allen, G – Montreal Juniors
6’2, 175
2nd round, 34th overall, 2008

Allen, 18, a native of Fredericton, New Brunswick, has started 53 games for the Montreal Juniors (formerly the St. John’s Fog Devils) in 2008-09 and his stock is definitely rising. During the season, the tall and lanky goaltender had 28 wins and 25 losses with a respectable .916 save percentage and a 2.86 goals against average. In September of 2009, he was named the QMJHL defensive player of the week. He also earned a spot on the QMJHL team for the 2008 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge.

Allen is very skilled at handling the puck and in scouting circles was known as the best puck-handling goaltender in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

In eight playoff games, Allen is 4-3-1 with a 3.09 GAA and .905 save percentage.