This season, the St. Louis Blues managed to move three
full-time rookies into their regular lineup. In all, eight rookies saw at least one game in a
Blues jersey this season, four of
which were defensemen. Among these rookies, one was selected from the
1997 NHL Entry Draft, three were selected from the 1998 NHL Entry
Draft, three were signed as unrestricted free agents, and one was
acquired via trade.
Here is a glimpse at the eight rookies to dress for the Blues this
Mark Rycroft, RW – Signed as a free agent on May 15, 2000
Rycroft, who has spent the last three seasons toiling with the
Worcester IceCats, the Blues’ AHL affiliate, lead all Blues rookies in scoring in 2003-04. Playing primarily on the club’s
third and fourth lines, Rycroft added a dimension of scoring to the
bottom end of the lineup, with a surprising 21 points. The Penticton,
BC native was signed in 2000, after finishing his third season with the
University of Denver.
Rycroft finished the regular season a +2, good enough for second
amongst the club’s right wingers, ahead of veterans Pavol Demitra
and Scott Mellanby. His point totals, 21 points in 79 games, placed him
tenth amongst scoring leaders for the Blues.
Mike Danton, C – Acquired along with a 3rd round selection (Konstantin Zakharov ) from
the New Jersey Devils on June 21st,
Super pest Mike Danton, who the Blues acquired during the last
off season, played an integral role in keeping the Blues’ opposition on
their toes during the course of the 2003-04 season. Danton tied for the club lead in minutes in
penalties with Reid Low (141), and finished second on the club in minor
penalties, one behind captain Chris Pronger, who recorded 39 on the
With former pest Tyson Nash dealt away to Phoenix, Danton was counted
on to agitate opponents with his ‘in-your-face’ style of play. The high
energy, high tempo game he brought was especially effective in the
playoffs, which saw the Blues bow out to the San Jose Sharks
in five games.
Backman, D – Selected in the first round, 24th overall, in the 1998
NHL Entry Draft
Although it was Mark Rycroft who lead the club in rookie
scoring, no rookie was more valuable to the St. Louis Blues in the
2003-04 season then defenseman Christian Backman. Backman, who
registered three less points in five less games then Rycroft, lead all
Blues rookies in plus/minus with a +3 ranking. The emergence of Backman
couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blues, who lost
perennial all-star defenseman Al MacInnis three games into the season,
and lost 2002-03 rookie of the year Barrett Jackman just twelve games
Backman finished tops among rookies in minutes per game, and ranked
sixth on the club in the same statistic, as well as third best among
defensemen playing more then ten games with the club.
It wasn’t just minutes that the 6’2″, 187-pound Backman contributed to the
club, though. Amongst rookie defensemen in the National Hockey League,
Backman finished seventh among points with 18 (5 goals, 13 assists). Backman also
finished third on the Blues in scoring amongst defensemen, behind Chris
Pronger and Eric Weinrich, who was acquired at the trade deadline from
Peter Sejna, LW
– Signed as a free agent on April 6th, 2003
Signed as a free agent after receiving the Hobey Baker award as
the top college player in the NCAA in 2003, Peter Sejna played
sparingly for the Blues before being demoted to Worcester to
play for the IceCats.
After putting up a paltry four points in 20 games, while seeing
upwards of 15 minutes of ice time a game, it was decided on November
23rd, 2003 that Sejna will spend the remaining portion of the season in
the American Hockey League. Sejna, who did enjoy a brief call-up at the
end of the season, was returned to Worcester before the start of the
Blues series against the San Jose Sharks.
Matt Walker, D – Selected in the third round, 83rd overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft
After making the Blues out of training camp, Matt
Walker suffered a groin injury which kept him out of the lineup for 51
games, almost 75 percent of the entire season. Upon returning to the lineup,
Walker, 24, was assigned to Worcester for a conditioning stint of two weeks before
returning to the Blues
lineup for the remainder of the season.
A native of Beaverlodge, Alberta, Walker played the role of the seventh
defenseman on St Louis, providing a physical spark when he
was in the lineup. Willing to drop the gloves, Walker fought to defend
his teammates or provide a change in momentum on several occasions this
season. Walker, known primarily as an aggressive defensive defenseman
who is strong in the corners, played a relatively disciplined game this
season when he was in the lineup, recording 25 minutes in penalties
through 14 games.
Rounding out the rest
Defenseman Jame Pollock,
who was selected by the Blues in the fourth round, 106th overall in the
1997 NHL Entry Draft, played in nine games for the Blues this season.
Pollock, who made his NHL debut in mid January, spent the majority of
his year in Worcester with the IceCats. At one point in December,
Pollock was assigned to the Canadian National Team to play in the
Spengler Cup, a tournament which Canada won.
who was signed as a free agent on October 7th, 2002, dressed for two
games, and averaged under ten minutes in each showing. Stuart,
originally drafted by the Nashville Predators 137th overall in the 2000
NHL Entry Draft, spent this season with Worcester, recording four
assists in 30 games. John Pohl,
the third Blues rookie selected in the 1998 Entry Draft, 255th overall,
played in only one game this season. Pohl recorded 41 points in 65 games for the IceCats this season.