<
>

Kevin Shattenkirk ready for Columbus

Kevin Shattenkirk's first All-Star experience lasted, oh, about 30 seconds.

Back in 2011 Shattenkirk, then with the Colorado Avalanche, was one of a dozen NHL rookies invited to Raleigh, North Carolina, for the All-Star weekend.

"I got in on the Friday and went to the [player] draft. Then I did one event in the skills competition and was kind of a spectator after that," the St. Louis Blues defenseman told ESPN.com as he prepared to head off for this weekend's All-Star event in Columbus, Ohio. "It was fun."

His event was part of a skills relay, and he was required to stick handle through some orange pucks that had been anchored to the ice. It lasted about half a minute by his recollection.

"That was my All-Star moment," he said with a laugh.

"That's all I can take away from it," he added. "You feel like a spectator who has all this great access through the whole thing."

This time around, things are bound to be a whole lot different for Mr. Shattenkirk.

First, less than two weeks after his trip to Raleigh in early 2011, Shattenkirk was part of a blockbuster deal between St. Louis and Colorado that saw the defenseman become a Blue while longtime pal (and fellow '15 All-Star participant) Erik Johnson went to Denver along with a collection of other players and draft picks.

Since coming to St. Louis, Shattenkirk -- the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft -- has matured both mentally and physically.

The result is that as of Wednesday morning, he and Calgary's Mark Giordano (also headed to Columbus) were the highest-scoring defensemen in the league with 39 points. Shattenkirk is just six points away from tying his career-best output for an entire season.

Was he thinking about the All-Star process in recent weeks? Sure he was.

"I think it's only natural to think about it," he said. "You kind of wake up in middle of December and think to yourself, 'Hey, this is a possibility.'"

By the time January rolls around and the team is about to be named, you think about it some more, he added.

"It's definitely in the back of your mind," Shattenkirk said. "The good part about it is that you can't really control it. If you're picked, you're picked. The night before they announced the team, I got a call from [Blues GM] Doug Armstrong that I was going to the game. I really had to keep it under wraps and keep it to myself.

"I called my family and let them know," added the New Rochelle, New York, native.

A year ago Shattenkirk, who will turn 26 shortly after All-Star weekend, went through a somewhat similar process waiting to see if he would be selected for the U.S. team for the Sochi Olympics.

This time, he admitted, was a lot less nerve-wracking. But the honors and recognition suggest a career arc that continues to track skyward.

"For any player, that's going to allow you to feel great about yourself and your game," Shattenkirk said of the Olympic nod.

Not that such honors haven't come without some soul-searching and plenty of hard work.

The U.S. team came up empty in Sochi, losing its final two games even though Shattenkirk was one of the team's steadiest players throughout the tournament. Then the Blues, considered a top Cup contender last spring, were bounced in six games in the first round by the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Shattenkirk recalled the frank discussions during his exit meetings with Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock.

"We had a pretty hard meeting with them. It was a wake-up call," he said.

Basically, the Blues' brain trust asked Shattenkirk if he was going to be happy just getting by on his raw skill or whether he was going to push himself to take full advantage of that skill set by working harder, getting in better shape.

"I knew this was the next step I had to take," Shattenkirk said.

He committed to working with Ben Prentiss, a strength and conditioning coach who has worked with NHLers like Martin St. Louis and fellow Olympian James van Riemsdyk. Shattenkirk followed a strict workout and diet regimen that saw him not necessarily lose weight but body fat.

"That was the big change," he said.

Big? How about going from a body fat percentage of 16.5-17 percent to 8.5-9 percent at the start of training camp?

"Now I'm kind of kicking myself for not doing it earlier and jumping on board," Shattenkirk said.

The physical change is directly related to the change in Shattenkirk's production and his contribution to a team that once again will be considered a top Cup threat come April.

"I've always felt like I could be kind of a real influence on this team. And I think over the last year or so I've built a lot of confidence," he said. "And this summer just changed up training wise, which would end up being such a huge jump for me and had such a huge effect on my game."

Now it's not so much being a more aggressive player but being such a player consistently.

"I feel like I have the stamina to finally play the way I want to," Shattenkirk said.

Well, that's a good thing, given that he's definitely going to be counted on to spend more than a minute or so on the ice this weekend in Columbus.

Next: We'll touch base with Shattenkirk after the All-Star player draft Friday night.