(HockeyStL) -- When he arrived to St. Louis through a trade in 2011, Kevin Shattenkirk seemed to be just another name involved in a blockbuster deal that sent Erik Johnson and Jay McClement along with a first-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche.
The player Blues fans were most excited about was a 23-year-old forward named Chris Stewart, who posted 30 points in 37 games prior to joining St. Louis. One year earlier, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound forward registered 64 points, including 28 goals, in 77 games for the Avalanche - numbers that an offensively-crippled team desperately needed.
All the hype surrounding Stewart kept Shattenkirk, then a 22-year-old rookie, right where he needed to be, behind the curtain and away from heavy expectations.
“I think I was a little overshadowed in that trade,” Shattenkirk said after the team’s first practice Thursday. “I think it was a good thing because I was able to really grow as a young defenseman.”
Shattenkirk notched 26 points in his first 46 games played in the NHL. The one sign that showed he was still a rookie was the minus-11 rating.
Since coming to St. Louis, Shattenkirk has grown under the guidance of Brad Shaw, the team’s assistant coach and a former NHL defenseman. He has posted 83 points in 155 games as a member of the Blues and has not finished a season with a minus rating.
“Confidence is a huge thing when you come into this league,” Shattenkirk said. “With Coach Shaw, he’s been here from the beginning and he’s worked with me and got me to where I am now.”
Looking back on the trade, the team realizes the additions of Shattenkirk and Stewart have been vital to get the Blues to a point of high expectations and the lofty goal of a Stanley Cup championship.
“He and Stewart are both equals I feel now,” Barret Jackman said. “You look, maybe one of those guys could have been traded for (Johnson) now, and now we have both. That was a huge deal for (general manager Doug Armstrong).”
Now more than two years since the trade, Shattenkirk is poised to take the next step to become a top-line defenseman as Alex Pietrangelo remains out of training camp due to a contract holdout.
“That’s a big void to fill,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s an opportunity for me to step up to that role that he plays, try to shine and help the team out and make a big impact.”
The added responsibility of a top-line defenseman might be most evident in the minutes played per game.
In the lockout-shortened season, Shattenkirk averaged 21 minutes and 18 seconds of playing time, which is just more than his career average of 20 minutes and 54 seconds. In comparison, Pietrangelo averaged 25 minutes and seven seconds of ice time last season, and nearly two full minutes more than his career average. That’s a difference of nearly four minutes played per game between the two players.
“Playing more minutes is something that when you earn those minutes there’s a lot more responsibility,” Shattenkirk said. “I think proving that I can be consistent night in and night out is an area of my game that I’d like to really prove to the coaches and to the team and take on that time.”
His consistency took somewhat of a hit last season, his third in the NHL, after he registered 14 points through 14 games to start the year. Shattenkirk posted nine points in the final 34 regular season games.
Until Alex Pietrangelo returns to the team, Shattenkirk will play alongside Jay Bouwmeester, who was acquired in a trade from Calgary last season and signed a five-year extension with the club this offseason.
The pair of defenseman played together for the majority of the team’s first practice on Thursday.
“It’s one day of practice,” Bouwmeester said. “Everything is kind of a feeling out process right now with the first day or two. If you look at how he plays, he plays a lot like Petro. He’s a good skater and moves the puck, and he does a lot of those things well.”
It’s been mentioned before that the strength of this year’s Blues team is its depth. The depth will be tested with Pietrangelo out, but it wouldn’t exist if the no-name rookie from New York hadn’t been traded three seasons ago.
Now the once-unknown name “Shattenkirk” will be even more prevalent on the blue line for a club looking for its first Stanley Cup in team history.