When the Blues acquired Jordan Leopold in March 2013, they were looking to improve shots from the left point. The former Sabres defenseman was acquired just before Jay Bouwmeester and both provided the Blues with exactly what they were seeking.
Heading into that season, the belief was that the youngster Ian Cole, also a left-handed shot, would provide that spark. But Cole was bounced out of the lineup due to a lack of production. In 15 games, Cole posted just one assist to go along with a minus-4 rating. His ice time fluctuated anywhere between 24 minutes to 13 minutes.
Cole did not appear in an NHL game after March 16.
But the Ann Arbor, Michigan, native has stayed with the big club to open the 2013-14 season as the seventh defenseman. He has appeared in three games for the Blues, posting a plus-1 rating with two penalty minutes. He averaged 14 minutes, 56 seconds of ice time to accompany 22 shifts per game in that span.
With news of Leopold needing surgery to repair tendon damage in his hand (and will subsequently need two months to recover), the 23-year old Cole has the chance to step in and prove that he can be a staple for the club that drafted him 18th overall in 2007.
Cole, a standout at Notre Dame from 2007 to 2010, is known for his smooth skating ability and slick passing. He was in the top four among assist leaders in his final two years at Notre Dame. When he moved to Peoria, he was usually seen as a pointman on the Rivermen’s power-play unit.
Despite his offensive talents, the best element to Cole’s game may be his timely hitting. The defenseman has had to defend himself on multiple occasions after dishing out a check, including last October when he leveled Rockford Ice Hogs forward Brandon Pirri at 12:59 of the first period in the Rivermen’s home opener.
“I timed it and stepped right into him,” he said after the game. “The situation presented itself and I was just thinking ‘hit the guy hard.’”
If he can deliver these types of hits at the NHL level, Cole may just be a pleasant surprise for the defensive-minded Blues team.