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During the 2012 NHL Draft weekend, Colton Parayko was sitting at home when he received a phone call. On the other end was Hockey Hall of Famer and St. Louis Blues then-Vice President of Hockey Operations Al MacInnis telling the 19-year old defenseman that he was now a part of the organization after being selected with the 86th pick.
Three years later and one month into his first NHL season, Parayko has played his way into the Calder Trophy discussion and on to the early radar for international competition.
The 2012 draft was actually the second opportunity for NHL teams to select the hulking defenseman, who’s now listed at 6-foot-5, 226 lbs. He was passed over in 2011, which wasn’t a surprise to Parayko.
“I wasn’t really necessarily expecting to get drafted,” Parayko said via phone on Friday. “I was only talking to a few teams and obviously still developing quite a bit. At the end of the day, [you] just want to make sure that you know that doesn’t really hinder yourself much. It almost motivates you for the next season to come back and have a better one.”
Parayko used that motivation to excel offensively in his second season with the Fort Murray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In 53 games, Parayko scored nine goals and posted 42 points, 30 more than what he put up in his first draft-eligible season.
Little did Parayko know that the Blues were quietly scouting him. It wasn’t until after the season and his meeting with a scout did he learn the organization was keeping an eye on him. And for a young player who’s hoping to reach The Show, that was probably a good thing.
“That’s something I try to do as well, just make sure that you’re not putting too much in your head,” he said. “Obviously every night you want to perform your best and the less you have to think about little things it makes it easier for you to focus on performing well and doing the things that will make you successful.”
Through 16 games, Parayko is fourth among all rookie scorers with five goals and 11 points. He’s also second among rookie defensemen averaging 19:51 of ice time per game playing mostly with Carl Gunnarsson. His surprising start has not only put him in the Calder conversation, but his name was also brought up by Team North America general manager Peter Chiarelli earlier this week as a player on the radar for their 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster.
“It’s exciting, but it’s so early on in the season, there’s so many ups and downs throughout the season,” he said, “you just have to weather the storm and make sure you’re not getting too high and not too low.”
The 2015-16 NHL rookie class is a strong one, even with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel stealing many of the early headlines. With McDavid out for a while, having players like Parayko, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Artemi Panarin, Dylan Larkin, Nikolaj Ehlers and a number of others in the mix will make for an exciting race for the Calder.
But most of those names we had heard of as being in the rookie of the year mix heading into the season. Parayko wasn’t on the minds of many outside St. Louis as a player who might have a big impact on his team. He’s certainly done his part to open eyes around the league.
With success comes notoriety, and Parayko is getting notice more and more around St. Louis. “It’s something I’ve never really experienced before,” he said.
When he’s away from the rink, Parayko is busy finishing up 15 credits online at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he’s majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. And like most college students, he’s not sure exactly what he wants to do in the field just yet.
While he works toward his degree off the ice, Parayko will continue working on his game on the ice as he gets comfortable making the adjustment to the NHL level.
“Every player is here for a good reason and they all bring something to the table,” he said, “so in order to find a place to fit in and be a part of a very good hockey team every night I just have to make sure that I am doing something that can help the team out.”
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