Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Blues Could Get Old Fast

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Blues Could Get Old Fast

Article excerpt

With Mike Keenan at the trigger, a lot can happen in 24 hours.

As of today, at least, the Blues' roster features five newcomers age 23 or younger, plus a 28-year-old rookie.

There is no guarantee that all will be here for Friday night's season opener at Kiel Center against Stanley Cup-champion Colorado, much less in the lineup. For now, the kiddie corps looks like this: Defenseman Jamie Rivers, age 21. Center Harry York, 22. Center Robert Petrovicky, turns 23 Oct. 26. Defenseman Libor Zabransky, turns 23 next month. Winger Jim Campbell, 23. Winger Konstantin Shafranov, 28. Petrovicky has 10 goals and 11 assists in 82 National Hockey League games over the past four years for Hartford and Dallas. Campbell had two goals and three assists in 16 games last season with Anaheim. Rivers played three games last season with the Blues. The three others have yet to play a regular-season game in the NHL. Al MacInnis (infected elbow) and Igor Kravchuk (knee surgery) practiced Wednesday at the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Chesterfield. The minute they suit up, the two rookie defensemen may be rerouted to Worcester of the American Hockey League. And it remains to be seen if Keenan, the coach who rarely met a veteran he didn't like, will give his young forwards much ice time. Despite those disclaimers, the question still remains: With the draft set up for 18- and 19-year-olds, what took this young crew so long to arrive? "Some kids are just late bloomers," Keenan said. The best way to elaborate on that is with three examples from the same European neighborhood. Petrovicky, 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, is from Slovakia. Zabransky, 6-4 and 210 pounds, is from the Czech Republic. And Blues scout Peter Stastny is from Slovakia, which was still part of Czechoslovakia for most of his Hall of Fame-caliber career. The two youngsters came to St. Louis by opposite routes. Petrovicky took the high-profile road. He was chosen ninth overall by Hartford in 1992 and rushed into the lineup as a teen-ager. "He was a high pick," Stastny said, "and a lot of people expect a heavy price. Especially in his case, where he's a late bloomer, a tiny kid who needs to gain some weight, gain some muscle, gain some experience. …

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