When Erik Johnson was drafted first overall in 2006, Alex Pietrangelo – two years younger – was just starting out his junior career with the Mississauga Ice Dogs. At 19, Johnson put together a solid rookie campaign for the Blues but his sophomore season was put on hold thanks to an off-ice injury needing surgery to repair knee ligaments. Following that 2008-09 season, the Blues selected Pietrangelo 4th-overall in a draft loaded with top defensive talent (see: Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers).
Pietrangelo, however, would watch much of his draft class suit up for their NHL clubs at 18, 19 and 20 years old while only seeing a handful of games with the big club. Finally getting his chance this season, we expected big things from Pietrangelo but acknowledged that he would still be playing in Johnson’s shadow.
Johnson is still a tremendous talent and despite his lack of production this season, the Blues didn’t give up on him by trading him to the Colorado Avalance – they have just opened up the franchise defenseman spot for a deserved Pietrangelo. The Johnson trade (paired with the Eric Brewer trade) solidifies Pietrangelo’s place on the Blues’ top D-pairing and powerplay unit – likely to be shared with newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk. Prior to the deals, Pietrangelo ranked third behind Brewer and Johnson in time of ice per game and since Jan 22, has been seeing a steady increase in minutes – which should translate into more opportunities.
Already with 31 points in 54 games this season, Pietrangelo’s production has ramped up steadily with a February hot streak of eight points in as many games including six assists in his past three games.
At only 32 percent owned, Pietrangelo should prove to be an asset for your fantasy team down the stretch.