ST. LOUIS — It wasn't the change of scenery from Colorado to the St. Louis that helped Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk turn the corner on what could be a starring role in the NHL.
The talent was already there since the Avalanche made the former Boston University star the 14th-overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft.
What Shattenkirk found with his new team was confidence from teammates and from the coaching staff, especially Blues assistant coach Brad Shaw.
"The relationship I have with Coach Shaw has been great, said Shattenkirk, tied for first in scoring among all NHL defensemen with two goals and 16 points in 20 games after scoring his second goal in Friday's 4-2 home win over Edmonton. "Especially as a young player, one thing you need is confidence from your coaches and he's shown that in me from day one."
Shaw handles the Blues' defensemen and was unsure exactly what he had on his hands when Shattenkirk arrived from Colorado.
"He looked like a guy who could generate breakouts through skating and could join the rush, be pretty creative offensively," Shaw said. "We just tried to slide him into that role and allow him to show us what he does best. He really carried the ball from there."
Shattenkirk explained the relationship between himself and Shaw, a former NHL defenseman whose work helped produce the league's lowest goals-against average last season.
"He just does a great job of communicating with me," Shattenkirk said. "We talk about plays, go over film together, talk on the bench after plays during games. That sort of communication and the amount of respect for him, what he says and how he coaches, is something that's made me feel a lot more comfortable."
Shaw is proud of what Shattenkirk has already accomplished, but feels much bigger things are down the road.
"He's a guy that has to skate to have success," Shaw said. "When he is skating and seeing the ice and moving the puck, he's as good as any offensive defensemen in the league."
Shattenkirk also credits Blues veterans like defenseman Barret Jackman for making his transition easier.
"You never know, sometimes it's your environment," Jackman said. "Shatty's really flourished here and I think Shaw's been great for him. He's just a guy that really cares about his teammates and wants to compete every night."
The Blues are in an envious position among their peers with two of the league's top offensive defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. Especially on a team that isn't blessed with many pure goal scorers.
Many felt Pietrangelo was close to being a Norris Trophy finalist last season and he's blossomed into one of the league's best two-way defensemen.
"I think it's their instincts that are so off the charts," Shaw said. "Their reads are great and then their execution off those reads is so good. They're hard to check and they're hard to stop."
However, both are also in the final years of their entry-level contracts and will command significant upgrades when it comes to contract extensions.
Pietrangelo, 23, is making $3.16 million this season and the 24-year-old Shattenkirk is at $1.3 million.
"They're both very rare when it comes to defensemen," Jackman said with a nod toward their overall skills. "If you have one of them on your team you're lucky, but to have two is great for the Blues."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Shattenkirk shows rare poise for such a young defenseman.
"He's a smart player, he's got great patience with the puck and he's not afraid to make plays," Hitchcock said. "We're willing to play with some risk bringing the puck out of our zone, so he fits that. He's not a bang it off the glass, chip it out kind of guy. He's a direct pass guy and that's what we want from our defense."
Shattenkirk's puck-moving skills and skating are so fluid one might think he had to be a forward at some point in his career. The East Coast native was, but not for long.
"My first two years of travel hockey I played a little bit of forward," he said. "If you ask any of my coaches I wasn't very much of a defenseman back then, My defensive game consisted of getting the puck in our zone and trying to skate it out."
That encouragement helped Shattenkirk realize that skating and puck-moving defensemen were prized commodities in the hockey world.
"I've always been encouraged to do that and the way the game has changed over the last eight or 10 years, it's pretty beneficial to have that kind of coaching and that kind of mentality in my game," Shattenkirk said.
Shattenkirk also has been extremely consistent on the NHL level. He had nine goals and 43 points for the Blues last season after hitting those exact totals as a rookie that split time between the Blues and Colorado in 2010-11.
Born in Connecticut, Shattenkirk grew up in New York and is still a huge fans of the NFL's New York Giants. Hockey took him to Michigan during his high school years, when he played for the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2005 to 2007.
From there it was on the Boston University, where Shattenkirk assisted on Colby Cohen's goal that helped the Terriers win the 2009 NCAA national championship.
Four years later, Shattenkirk is on the cusp of stardom in the NHL while sitting atop the defenseman scoring list.
"It's pretty cool, but I kind of figured it would be over by now," he said.