What a terrific day it was for the NHL as the 2014 Winter Classic certainly lived up to its name not only in the weather conditions but also in the game itself, with the Toronto Maple Leafs winning in a shootout. That shootout delayed the announcement of the US Olympic Team for the 2014 games in Sochi.
Of course with the selection of any team there are going to be snubs and omissions. With those omissions there is the flip side of the coin, the surprise choices — players that have hockey fans sometimes scratching their collective heads. The choice to leave Bobby Ryan off the team will be discussed and analyzed ad nauseam over the next few weeks. To a lesser degree, conversations will be had as to why former Olympian defensemen Jack and Erik Johnson were left off or why talented Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle did not make the cut.
One player who may not be the biggest name in the sport but was chosen, and deservedly so, was the St. Louis Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk. His stats do not lie and his play on the ice is one that should definitely increase the US Olympic Team’s chances of winning gold in Sochi. GM David Poile made the right decision in selecting Kevin Shattenkirk.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Kevin Shattenkirk often gets overlooked. Some of it may be because of his stature — 5’11” and just over 200 pounds — he is on the petite side for NHL defenseman. It may also be because he plays on a defensive unit that includes higher profile blue-liners like Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. But make no mistake about it — there is no bigger player on defense for the St. Louis Blues than Kevin Shattenkirk.
The former Boston University Terrier is making the Blues’ management decision to sign him to a four-year deal before the 2013-2014 season look like a no-brainer. With 28 points on 6 goals and 22 helpers, the diminutive Shattenkirk is pacing all Blues defenseman in scoring, while still maintaining a plus-9 on the plus/minus ledger.
Not only is he among the Blues’ best defenseman; lets take a gander at how he stacks up against the rest of the rearguards in the NHL.
Always in the top 25
Originally drafted 14th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Kevin Shattenkirk has never found himself out of the top 25 in scoring among defenseman.
He made his debut for Colorado in the 2010-2011 season and after 46 games and 26 points was dealt to the Blues along with forward Chris Stewart for defenseman Erik Johnson, a former 1st overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, and forward Jay McClement. Shattenkirk continued a fantastic rookie season in St. Louis by adding 17 points in 26 games. His point total of 43 placed him 20th in the NHL among defenseman. He currently sits fifth in the league.
Shattenkirk makes the most of his goals as well. Shattenkirk has tallied 3 game winners already this season, including an overtime winner against the Dallas Stars on December 29, this coming after tallying a shootout winner against the Chicago Blackhawks.
This would be the second time Shattenkirk helped dispose of the Blackhawks in shootouts; he also did it on April 4, 2013. You would be hard-pressed to find too many defenseman that have won a game in shootouts, but that is the type of skill that Kevin Shattenkirk brings to the ice every night.
While his offensive efforts make the headlines, Shattenkirk does not completely eschew his defensive responsibilities. His lack of size does not hinder his ability to defend the Blues; goal as his career plus/minus of plus-27 would attest to.
Whether he is paired with Barret Jackman or Jordan Leopold, his two main partners over the last few seasons, Shattenkirk has the ability to retrieve the puck. He does this with both the uncanny abiltity to get in the passing and shooting lanes and being able to lay a hit on a player. Even with his smaller frame he has delivered a few big body checks in his time. He can make up for his lack of size with strength, smarts and excellent positioning.
There’s no doubt the Red, White and Blue made the correct choice in selecting Kevin Shattenkirk to represent Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics.