St. Louis splashes out to lock down cov­eted Colton

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

Af­ter hear­ing de­vel­op­ment coach Tim Tay­lor sing the praises of a late-bloom­ing de­fense­man play­ing college hockey in Alaska, Doug Arm­strong went to see for him­self.

The St. Louis Blues’ gen­eral man­ager and Tay­lor watched as Colton Parayko dom­i­nated a game at Bowl­ing Green, and even then Arm­strong didn’t get his hopes too high.

“We were ex­cited, but it’s one thing to do it at the college level or ju­nior level,” he said. “It’s an­other one to do it with the men in the NHL.”

Parayko has done it and then some. Just two sea­sons into his NHL ten­ure, the Blues have signed him to a $27.5 mil­lion, five-year con­tract that so­lid­i­fies him as a key part of their blue line for the present and fu­ture. He will count $5.5 mil­lion against the salary cap through 2021-22 on a deal reached just be­fore the sides were set to go to ar­bi­tra­tion on Thurs­day.

Only sharp­shoot­ing Rus­sian winger Vladimir Tarasenko is signed longer as the Blues have cap­tain Alex Pi­etrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Parayko locked up as their top three on de­fense.

“Colton com­ing on the scene the last cou­ple of years gives us a real good right side now ob­vi­ously with Alex and Colton for a num­ber of years mov­ing for­ward,” Arm­strong said. “Nice to have him in the fold for five years and our cap­tain for at least three more. It’s a good feel­ing.”

Arm­strong and the 24-yearold re­stricted free agent and his rep­re­sen­ta­tives had ar­rived at the hear­ing in Toronto when they set­tled on the deal. Arm­strong said if Parayko had gone to ar­bi­tra­tion, the con­tract would have been for two years and the Blues could have worked some­thing out in 2019 be­fore he hit un­re­stricted free agency.

Parayko has 13 goals and 55 as­sists for 68 points in 160 games over his first two NHL sea­sons. Arm­strong ex­pects Parayko’s pro­duc­tion to in­crease with more ice time, es­pe­cially on the power play with Kevin Shat­tenkirk gone.

“He’s got an ab­so­lute can­non, but he has to be able to find ways to get the shot off a lit­tle bit quicker, with a lit­tle bit more de­cep­tion,” Arm­strong said. “We think he can do that. It’s a great weapon for us to have Tarasenko’s abil­ity to score from dis­tance and Colton’s also.”

Parayko said he can’t wait to get back on the ice in St. Louis in Septem­ber.

A third-round pick in 2012 af­ter play­ing lower-level ju­nior hockey in his na­tive Canada, Parayko im­proved dras­ti­cally over three sea­sons at the Univer­sity of Alaska-Fair­banks and af­ter a stint in the Amer­i­can Hockey League was a stand­out at the Tra­verse City prospects tour­na­ment in 2015.

“I thought he and (Detroit Red Wings for­ward) Dy­lan Larkin were by far the two most dom­i­nant play­ers at that tour­na­ment,” Arm­strong said. “And then he got into our train­ing camp and never looked back. It didn’t take our­selves and the league long to re­al­ize that he has the op­por­tu­nity to be a spe­cial player.”

Parayko was eighth in Calder Tro­phy vot­ing as rookie of the year in 2015-16 and stepped up af­ter the Blues traded Shat­tenkirk to the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals at the trade dead­line last sea­son.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Freestyle soc­cer player Bryn­jar Fagerli of Nor­way per­forms a hand­stand trick dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary round of the Bei­jing leg of the 2017 Carabao Freestyle Foot­ball World Cup in front of the iconic Yongding­men Gate Tower in the cap­i­tal on Thurs­day. Fagerli’s younger brother, Er­lend, won the event, which fea­tured a to­tal of 24 per­form­ers in all, in­clud­ing six Chi­nese, and was or­ga­nized and pro­moted by Bei­jing-based Ray Sports.

Colton Parayko, who has re-signed for the St. Louis Blues

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