Blues prospects getting a taste of the NHL - and St. Louis - this week

News-DemocratJuly 9, 2013 

While other prospects visiting the Blues' annual summer rookie camp Tuesday hope to someday make St. Louis their home, 2013 fourth-round draft pick Zach Pochiro is already a native.

Pochiro was born in St. Louis and lived here for one year before his parents -- both blackjack dealers at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis -- moved to Las Vegas.

"They lived here for about four or five years," Pochiro said. "My dad was an Italian and my mom was just a regular American gal and we lived on The Hill."

The prospects arrived Sunday for workouts and training, but also were treated to a Cardinals game Tuesday and a John Mayer concert Wednesday.

Pochiro was overjoyed to be back in St. Louis again for his first Blues prospects camp.

"The best way to put it is a dream come true," said the 19-year-old Pochiro, who grew up in Las Vegas and had 15 goals and 39 points in 65 games this season in the Western Hockey League. "Being from here, I'm a Cardinals fan and I'm a Rams fan...we're going to a Cardinals game today and I'm just embracing all of this.

"Wearing this (Blues) logo, being around and seeing Brett Hull on the wall, (Brendan) Shanahan, Al MacInnis, this is just a dream cone true and I'm happy to be here."

Blues players were schedule to take a little batting practice before the Cards game and one of the most anxious players was top prospect Ty Rattie.

Rattie was talented enough as a baseball shortstop that he made Alberta's provincial team, but fortunately for the Blues he liked hockey better.

A second-round pick in 2011, Rattie had 48 goals and 110 points in 62 games with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks this season. In the playoffs, he fired in 20 more goals and 36 points in just 21 games.

Rattie's 50 playoff goals are the most in WHL history and in 2011-12 had 57 goals and 121 points in 69 games.

"I had to pick between baseball and hockey at age 15 and lucky for me I picked hockey because I was better at the time," said Rattie, who also was a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. "At the Rattie house we always had a Blue Jays game on. We'd go down to Toronto every summer to catch a couple games. I'm a big Blue Jays fan, but the Cardinals are a close second."

The Blues plan on giving Rattie a shot at making the NHL roster in training camp. If not, he is headed for the Blues' new AHL affiliate in Chicago.

"He's going to get a very good look in training camp and he's going to get a look with some of our better players," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "It's a big step from junior hockey to the NHL. He's a talented goal scorer and he's scored at every level. He'll get a look and if he's ready to play, he'll play. That will be the same with (Dmitrij) Jaskin."

The Blues consider Rattie and Jaskin at the top of their organizational depth chart when it comes to new sources of scoring.

"The reality is we need one of those two players -- and hopefully both of them -- but we need one of those two players to take a step where they're going to be a contributing factor on our team in the near future," Armstrong said.

"Realistically I think there's going to be a learning curve for me and I understand that," Rattie said. "But right from day one I'm going to try to make the St. Louis Blues, and if I don't I'm completely fine with going to Chicago. Obviously the ultimate goal is to be a St. Louis Blue."

Considered a bit small by NHL standards at 6-foot and a shade over 170 pounds, Rattie has added five pounds this summer. He wants to add strength without losing his speed and elusiveness, two traits which have helped him carve up the WHL.

" I've been working out a couple weeks now and I've already put on five pounds, so I'm on the right track," he said. "Maybe another five pounds before training camp. They tell me to get bigger, but I don't want to get too big because I don't want to lose my shiftiness, I don't want to lose my speed. If I lose that I'm just going to get killed up here."

Rattie's scoring numbers in juniors are off the charts. Does he have the tools to becoming a consistent NHL scorer?

"The NHL is a completely different game," Rattie said. "I've had one training camp under my belt and I've kind of had a taste, but I'm really looking forward to coming here in September and proving that my scoring touch can translate to the NHL game."

Blues goaltending prospect Jordan Binnington was named Goalie of the Year in the Ontario Hockey League this season after turning in 32 wins, seven shutouts a 2.14 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

"There's some NHL players working around here, so you get to see what they do in the summer and the amount of work it takes to get to the next level," said Binnington, who couldn't help but notice Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak pushing himself on a nearby treadmill. "He's pretty into his workout, so I want to leave him alone."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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