Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Vince Dunn are just a few of the St. Louis Blues defensemen who will probably be around for the next few years, but, just last week, the team signed another young man that they hope will add his name to that list in the foreseeable future – Scott Perunovich, a two-time All-American junior defenseman from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Despite a shortened 2019-20 season, Perunovich had career-bests in both assists and overall points with 34 and 40, respectively, while his goal production was up from the previous season. He was also third on Minnesota-Duluth this year overall in points. In his freshman year, he also won the Tim Taylor Award for the Hockey Commissioner’s Association National Rookie of the Year.
In addition to having a career year this year, Perunovich was just recently named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, along with North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman. The award is given annually to the top player in college hockey, with this year’s award winner being named on April 11. In addition to a player’s hockey skills, other criteria for the award include their scholastic work, as well as sportsmanship and character, both on and off the ice.
The State of Hockey
During his time at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Perunovich also received many accolades – he’s a two-time All-American as well as a three-time Offensive Defenseman of the Year and All-Conference first-team defenseman in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Along with those awards, are the many attributes that he possesses as a second-round NHL draft pick. Perhaps chief among them is his knowing what it takes to win it all, as the Bulldogs have won the last two NCAA Frozen Four Championships.
Of course, while his time in the great state of hockey is coming to an end, it’s also the place it all began, playing for four years at Hibbing High School where he finished his senior year as a member of the All-Iron Range Conference. The year after that, he left Minnesota to play one year with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League in 2016-17 before coming back home to start his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Blues D-men Through the Years
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Perunovich isn’t the tallest or biggest of defensemen. Now it would be a little unfair to compare him to the Blues’ Colton Parayko (6-foot-6 and 230 pounds) but, the team currently does have five defensemen who are 6-foot-2 or taller with the other two at 6-foot.
That said, the Blues have, over the years, had their fair share of defensemen that were on the small side including one that has his number hanging from the rafters at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Barclay Plager. The same height as Perunovich, Barclay had an illustrious career, playing his entire career in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Blues Back Line Future
So while players today continue to be bigger and stronger, as evident by the defensemen the team already has, history also shows that there is more to a quality defenseman than just height. The fact that Perunovich actually signed two contracts last month, one if this year’s season continues and one if we don’t have hockey until 2020-21, also shows that the Blues believe that he brings something to the table.
Along with his knowing what it takes to win, he also brings the ability to see the ice and anticipate plays well, along with being skilled at making good outlet passes. Throw in his ability to score, which is something the Blues like in their defensemen, and it’s easy to see why he’s a good fit going forward.
Something else that is important is that he’s left-handed, which at this point is something the Blues are in the market for. The only youngster they have with a left-handed shot is Vince Dunn and their leadership on that side of the defense is Jay Bouwmeester, whose future is unknown as of now.
So while there are many unknowns as to this season, from whether St. Louis will be able to defend the Stanley Cup to if we’ll even have hockey again, the Blues continue to build their blue line for the future and with a player like Perunovich, they’re future looks bright. As a Blues fan, I can’t wait to see him in a blue note, whenever that is.