And while it’s the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere who’s expected to be one of the Calder Trophy finalists (along with forwards Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin), Parayko could very well join Gostisbehere as the other d-man on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team.
Indeed, it’s been a remarkable and unexpected season for Parayko, the third-round draft pick in 2012 that spent three years playing college hockey at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He turned heads in training camp, along with fellow rookie blue-liner Joel Edmundson. He ended up playing 79 games in the regular season, finishing with nine goals and 33 points.
“It’s been quite the journey, it’s been a whirlwind almost,” Parayko told reporters a couple of weeks ago. “I think at the end of the year I’m going to be looking back and it’s going to be pretty memorable and pretty cool.”
On Sunday, he added another memory, scoring a power-play goal in the Blues’ 3-2 win over the Blackhawks in Chicago.
For now, Parayko remains a bottom-pairing d-man who’s simply hoping to help St. Louis get over the playoff hump.
But that hasn’t stopped people — in particular, fans of other teams, and maybe their GMs — from wondering if his emergence could play into what happens this summer with Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s only got next season left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Shattenkirk, 27, would be highly sought-after on the trade market, should his extension demands prove too hefty for GM Doug Armstrong. Theoretically, Parayko could help alleviate the loss of Shattenkirk.
Again, that’s not the concern right now for St. Louis. It’s beating the Blackhawks and avoiding another first-round defeat.
If the Blues can accomplish that goal, their depth on defense will undoubtedly be a big reason why, aided by a 22-year-old rookie on a whirlwind journey.