By Dave Eminian
Of The Journal Star
PEORIA, Ill. – Kevin Croxton was signed by the Peoria Rivermen last fall as insurance.
Now he’s part of a wait-and-see policy with the AHL club.
Croxton could stay the rest of the season. The winger could be counted on for scoring. He could end up back at ECHL Alaska.
A lot depends on what happens with the parent club St. Louis Blues as the NHL trade deadline looms days away.
“There could be a trickle up, or a trickle down of players,” Croxton said. “Being the new guy in here, it’s different for me. There isn’t a lot of talk about the Blues situation going on in our room.
“We’re waiting, but we have to let the chips fall where they may. We can’t control these things, and if we spend too much time thinking about it, the next thing we know we might be out of a playoff spot.”
The Rivermen are in fourth place in the West Division, one point ahead of Iowa. Peoria battles with North foe Grand Rapids on Friday. It’s a key game because, should the Rivermen finish fifth, they could still make a playoff spot by bumping out the fourth-place team in the North. And that team is Grand Rapids.
Croxton, who caught the Blues’ eyes during the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last summer, was summoned from Alaska to help a shorthanded Peoria roster and a slumping offense.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder scored a goal in his second game, and after four outings has added three assists while playing with checking line winger Cam Keith, who played for Pensacola in 2004-05 and Alaska in 2005-06, and center Gavin Morgan, who as a rookie in 1999-2000 played for Idaho and Long Beach.
“They’re great to play with, and I’m learning from them every day,” said Croxton, who is on a one-year AHL-ECHL contract. “I just want to try to keep the game simple, get better every day.”
He was born in Edmonton, grew up in Calgary and learned to skate on ponds thanks to his mother, Leslie. His father is a big Oilers fan, and his two sisters took a dim view of his requests to stand in the net and take shots from him when they were kids.
Croxton chose RPI for a collegiate career knowing there would be ice time there as a freshman. He captained the team and played a school-record 147 games, notching 57 goals with 86 assists. He made the ECAC All-Rookie team. A year later, he earned all-ECAC honors, and the final two seasons was an ECAC all-Academic pick, finishing college with a business degree.
“I try to bring an offensive side to the game,” said Croxton, who led RPI in scoring three of four seasons, and was its first freshman to lead in points since Craig Hamelin in 1991-92. “Now I want to try to help Peoria string together a couple of wins.”