It’s hard to miss Colton Parayko. There aren’t many 6-foot-5 human beings in the world.
There are even less that can skate with smooth precision and have innate sense of positioning on the ice.
Parayko fits all those descriptions, yet he slipped through the cracks to the St. Louis Blues, who have enjoyed showing off their find at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings.
“He really looks like he has a chance to be a special player,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.
So, how did Parayko go virtually unnoticed by 29 other NHL teams and fall into St. Louis’ possession with a third-round pick (86th overall) in 2012?
It’s all about location and having people in the right place at the right time in Russia, when Parayko’s Alberta Junior Hockey League team, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, was playing in the World Junior Club tournament.
“Guys in that certain area had given us a call and said, ‘You’d better come look at him,’” Armstrong said. “He played under the radar up there in Fort McMurray, but our guys made sure they got in to see him.”
And now the rest of the hockey world is seeing the Blues’ find, a player that wasn’t even ranked among the top-210 North American Skaters by Central Scouting in 2012.
The right-handed defenseman stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 219 pounds. Since the Blues drafted him he’s grown into his body, consistently getting stronger while working in the weight room at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
“Obviously, every week you’re training, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, in the weight room,” Parayko said. “I put on quite a few pounds. And that was definitely a bonus to me and something I noticed when I went there.”
He also came into his own on the ice at Alaska, registering 49 points in his final two seasons while consistently playing heavy minutes.
The results — which opposing prospects learned the hard way — is a punishing physical presence in front of the net and a booming shot that connected for a pair of goals at the rookie tournament.
While watching the Blues’ prospects play the New York Rangers’ prospects, St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock turned to an executive from another Western Conference NHL team and said, with a smile, “What do you think of No. 55?”
And Hitchcock, along with Armstrong, is the man Parayko has to impress most.
The mental make-up of the 22-year-old is in his favor.
He was selected as the captain of the Blues’ prospects team in Traverse City, something he considers a “great honor,” and he isn’t afraid to put in the extra work.
When asked what he needs to work, Parayko responded, “Everything. I have to work to improve as much as possible in every part of my game.”
It’s the same attitude he’s had his entire career, it just wasn’t prominently on display in the far reaches of Alberta and Alaska.
He’ll be attending his first NHL training camp beginning later this week and then will likely start the season with the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League, where he appeared in 17 games last season after finishing his collegiate career.
“As far as the plays go, guys are a lot more controlled (in pro hockey),” Parayko said. “They know where each other are. They just move the puck faster.”
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