By Don Baker
Of The Journal Star
PEORIA, Ill. – Tyson Strachan figured he’d be signing autographs for fans this fall at Carver Arena.
But who expected he’d be doing it as a member of the St. Louis Blues?
Strachan was an emergency pickup on the Peoria Rivermen defense unit last season. Peoria, hammered by injuries and call-ups, found Strachan playing for Las Vegas in the Double-A ECHL.
He moved up to Peoria and played 34 games for the Triple-A club, with one goal with two assists and a plus-5 rating. It opened eyes.
The Blues signed him over the summer to an AHL contract for the Rivermen. But when St. Louis lost defensemen Erik Johnson, Jeff Woywitka and Jonas Junland to injuries during training camp, the door was wide open to the St. Louis blue line.
“Everybody is different as far as moving to different levels,” Blues president John Davidson said. “Some take the long, hard road. Some never get up the road. Some turn around and go back. Some fall off the side of the road. Some did it quickly.”
In May, Strachan was playing for Las Vegas in the ECHL playoffs. Friday, he was with the Blues, only one week away from the start of their NHL season.
St. Louis wrapped up its two-day NHL training camp Friday at Carver Arena with a morning skate, an evening autograph session and a scrimmage that drew an announced crowd of 2,203.
“It’s almost surreal signing autographs at the next level,” Strachan, 23, said. “You just take it day by day and enjoy it for what it is. You pinch yourself. It’s really rewarding. Mom and Dad are so proud and they put in a lot of hours.
“It seems like you’re a long way from the top when you are at the ECHL level. You just need to stay positive when you’re there. I’m glad I’m here now.”
The Blues and Rivermen chose sides and skated through a four-on-four competition Friday night. There was a scoring contest, and each squad had the chance to work on one power play and one penalty-kill.
“The learning curve at this camp is amazing,” Strachan said. “The skill level and work ethic are great.
“The game at each level gets a little bit quicker and the guys get a little bigger. And it actually gets easier to play well, because everyone around you is doing their job, too. Your game improves as you play with better players. I’ve learned to let the game come to me.”
Strachan is a 6-foot-3, 225-pound native of Melfort, Saskatchewan, who was taken by Carolina in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Rather than sign with the Hurricanes organization, he played four years at Ohio State before heading to the ECHL last season.
If he gets cut by the Blues – possibly before their NHL preseason game Saturday at Atlanta – he’ll have no regrets.
“I won’t look at that in a negative way,” Strachan said. “I will just work hard and try to get back up there. Guys go up and down in the American League all the time, which kind of sparks that dream some more.”