He’s only been a full-time NHL defenseman for two seasons, but Kevin Shattenkirk is definitely a vital cog in the improving St. Louis Blues’ machine.
“I think last year was a big step forward,” Shattenkirk said during a recent telephone interview. “We really improved with Coach [Ken] Hitchcock, and he came in and got us to play to our full potential.”
The Greenwich, Conn., native tallied nine goals and 34 assists for 43 points in 81 games as St. Louis finished second in the Western Conference, and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in six seasons.
The Blues ousted the San Jose Sharks in five games, but were swept in the second round by the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings. Shattenkirk, though, did manage to sneak one past Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Jonathan Quick.
“It’s easier said than done,” Shattenkirk admitted. “Their defense did a good job, getting sticks on shots, coupled with how well Jon played.”
A former All-American blueliner at Boston University, where he won a national title and also served as a team captain, Shattenkirk played three years with the Terriers. Though tempted to bypass college for the pros after winning the 2009 NCAA title as a sophomore, he returned for one more season.
“To be a captain and accept a different role was very important,” said the 5-foot-11, 208-pound rearguard. “To have that responsibility and pressure made me a better player, and it got me ready for the next level.”
Shattenkirk, 23, enjoyed success at a young age, winning national titles with both the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club and the Mid-Fairfield (Conn.) Blues, and then spent two years with the National Team Development Program before enrolling at BU, where he tallied 18 goals and 78 points in his career.
After a 13-game apprenticeship with Lake Erie in the American Hockey League, Shattenkirk made his NHL debut in 2010-11 with the Colorado Avalanche, who drafted him 14th overall in 2007, and proceeded to notch 14 points in his first 15 games. He had 26 points in 46 games with the Avs until he was dealt to the Blues in the Erik Johnson deal later that season.
“I was really shocked,” he said of being traded. “Once I got to St. Louis, I sat down with [Blues general manager] Doug Armstrong. He said how important it was that I came over with Chris [Stewart], and that instilled confidence in me. It was a matter of what to do with the opportunity, and I’m fortunate that it’s worked out extremely well.”
Shattenkirk has already represented the U.S. in the 2007 Under-18 World Championship, the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the 2011 IIHF World Championships, and hopes to have the chance to do so again in 2014 when the Olympic Winter Games come to Sochi, Russia.
“There’s nothing better than putting on that USA jersey,” he admitted. “Every time you walk in the locker room and see it hanging up in your stall, it’s an honor, and I take pride in it.”
He hopes to achieve his Olympic goal, though he knows there’ll be highly-experienced competition for a roster spot.
“To get a tryout and give it a shot, I would be happy with that,” Shattenkirk said. “It would be phenomenal to make that team.”
Roman J. Uschak is a freelance writer from Union, N.J.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Gunner Moore started skating when he was 5 years old and his mother took him to the local rink in Las Vegas. Within two weeks he was skating like he’d been on the ice for years.
These days Gunner makes the long commute across the desert to play with a team in California. He uses the four-hour trip to do his homework so he can maintain his A average in school. In addition to doing well on the ice and in the classroom, Gunner goes out of his way to think of others.
In 2009 he started growing his hair to donate to kids with cancer. On April 2, 2011, the former mayor of Las Vegas Oscar Goodman helped cut Gunner’s 11 inches of hair, which he donated to Klip it for Kidz, a local cancer foundation in Nevada. He hasn’t had his hair cut since then as he is looking to donate his hair again in 2013.