As we continue our look at our players aging out of junior hockey, we at the Jr. Blues felt it only right for our next subject to be this year’s captain, defenseman Mason Kruger.
A native of Alpharetta, Georgia who now resides in Nashville, Tenn., the 5’9, 165 lb left-hander joined the Jr. Blues last season after playing most of his hockey career for what was then known as TPH Thunder AAA. While he showed great promise in his first junior season, scoring three goals and 18 assists, his 2018-19 season was limited by two major injuries: first a facial injury suffered during a practice in November, and then a concussion which prematurely ended his season last February.
Kruger said that he found strength through his teammates through all this adversity. “Last year through the playoffs, all the guys were there supporting me, no matter what. Even though I couldn’t play, they still wanted me there and they wanted to support me. I think that really showed me a lot and helped me get through everything.”
St. Louis head coach Chris Flaugher said that seeing Kruger become the team’s number one fan during last season’s playoff push convinced him he was the right man to wear the “C” in 2019-20. “I’d always seen Mason as being a strong presence on the ice, but seeing him with his teammates, supporting them through the rough and the smooth of a long season, really made me know he had the potential to be our captain going forward. I’m proud to say that he was fully worthy of wearing that letter on his sweater this year.”
Kruger answered the challenge of being team captain with gusto, both on the ice and in the dressing room. He posted 26 points (2 G, 24 A) in 2019-20, with a +22 rating and only six penalty minutes. While he was named to the 2019 Central Division Top Prospects team, his injury prevented him from making the trip to New England: this season he was able to take part in the Top Prospects Tournament, where he recorded one assist in three games. Kruger cites his favorite Jr. Blues memory as what would turn out to be his final home games: an emotional weekend sweep of Granite City on the last weekend of February.
Mason will not be going far to continue his hockey career, as he will be attending Lindenwood University in St. Charles. He chose the program as “I love St. Louis, it’s a great city, they have my major and they win.”
As the outgoing captain, Kruger has this advice for both his former teammates and future Jr. Blues: “Be ready to win, be ready to work, but most of all have fun with it. Junior hockey only lasts so long and it’s the greatest years of your life.”
Next in our “Saluting our ‘99s” series: Clayton Dawe