Colton Parayko said he is ready to replace Alex Pietrangelo as the No. 1 defenseman for the St. Louis Blues.
And Pietrangelo agrees.
“I think he’s already an elite player, but I think with more opportunity and knowing he’s the guy on the back end, he’s going to be the guy, the leader of the back end,” said Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 12. “I think he’s going to thrive in that position.”
The Blues have yet to say what role Parayko will play this season, but it’s likely the 27-year-old will step into the one previously filled by Pietrangelo.
“I’m excited if that’s how it goes and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Parayko said. “If it calls for different scenarios, more ice time, great. I’m looking forward to it.”
Parayko, who is entering his sixth NHL season, averaged an NHL career-high 23:00 in ice time per game last season, second on the Blues behind Pietrangelo (24:11).
“Over the course of my five years, I’ve been privileged to play in a lot of different scenarios, and coaches have put a lot of trust in me, whether it be [on the] power play, penalty kill, even strength against other teams’ top lines to play,” Parayko said. “That’s good that I got that opportunity and I got to play in those situations and be ready for them.”
Pietrangelo said Parayko’s growing confidence is a big reason he feels his former teammate is ready for extra responsibility.
“I think watching him continue to get better and the things I tell him is he can play with that confidence,” Pietrangelo said. “I don’t want to say arrogance, but a form of arrogance where he’s got to trust his abilities to make the plays I know he can make and I’ve seen him make on a consistent basis because he’s got all the tools with the hockey sense and the intangibles of skating, the skill to do all those things.
“It’s just trusting his ability on a consistent basis to do that, but everybody knows what a world-class player he is. It’s just for him, trusting his ability night in and night out.”
Parayko showed he could handle anything thrown at him during when the Blues won their first Stanley Cup championship in 2019.
He averaged 25:07 of ice time in 26 playoff games when he was partnered with Bouwmeester. In the Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, Parayko played 26:08 or more in each game. The Blues won the series in seven games.
Their role was to limit the production of Boston’s top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, which was held to five points (two goals, three assists) in even-strength situations that included an empty-net goal by Marchand in Game 1.
“You get the challenge of playing those top players, they’re the best in the world,” Parayko said. “They’re going to make plays, but at the same time, the best part about it is the challenge of how it can be exciting. It’s just fun to go up against those challenges.
“Moving forward, it would be fun to take on these challenges. Our D core is incredible. It’s going to be fun to take it on as a whole, and with [Pietrangelo] leaving, it’s going to be up to all of us to step up and make it happen and just come together.”
Parayko finished last season playing on the second pair with Marco Scandella but could play on the top pair with former Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who signed a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the Blues on Oct. 9.
“I’m excited obviously,” Parayko said of adding Krug. “We’re all excited for that matter. He’s a great all-around defenseman that can play in all situations as well, and we’re all looking forward to adding him obviously.
“I got a chance to meet him actually here in St. Louis [recently] and I think he’s great. He’s going to fit in perfectly. He’s a competitor for sure and it’s fun to watch. We saw it there in the Stanley Cup Final when we played him. I think he’ll just fit in well with our team and our systems.”