Monday, May 14, 2012

NHL experience will help Schwartz moving forward

Blues' 2010 No. 1 pick has good understanding of
what he needs to do to this summer be ready for 2012-13

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues decided to bring 19-year-old Jaden Schwartz, the team's first round pick in 2010, straight to the NHL instead of giving him the proper seasoning at the AHL level, there was a pretty good sense they knew what they were getting.

The Blues weren't getting just an average, ordinary teenager who would step onto the biggest stage of professional hockey like a deer in headlights. They were getting a player showing the maturity of a seasoned veteran.

It's easy to feel that way considering Schwartz was a two-time captain for Canada's World Junior squad.

Of course Blues general manager Doug Armstrong admitted injuries at the time played a part in signing Schwartz in mid-March to a three-year entry-level contract knowing one year would be gone by the wayside, but with Schwartz's skill-set and maturity level, there was no second-guessing.
(Getty Images)
Jaden Schwartz scored two goals and had one assist in seven games after
signing an entry-level contract in March. He was the 14th overall pick in 2010.

He carries himself and he seems to be emotionally mature beyond his years," Armstrong said at the time. "That's not a concern of ours that he's mentally ready for the challenge. Physically, he's the player that we drafted. We want to find out where his strength is at this level. I think he's a player that the NHL level might be an easier level to play at than the American League level because his game is based around hockey sense. The ability to play with good players should hopefully play into his game."

Schwartz played in seven games and scored twice -- on his first two NHL shots on goal. He couldn't have scripted things better.

"I got a ton. I really learned a lot," Schwartz said. "One of the biggest things is just kind of getting to know the guys, the training staff, coaching systems. I think that was big for me.

"It was a dream-come-true to get to play in some games. After the first couple you settle down a little bit and focus on playing. You're still excited, but the first game, you really get up for that. It was very cool. I didn't know that was going to happen. I didn't expect that after the college season, but it was very exciting, a great opportunity and I'm really glad I got to come in. It's going to help me going forward."

Drafted out of Colorado College, Schwartz is expected to compete for a top-12 role with the Blues next season, and even though his last game on the ice was April 7 at Dallas, Schwartz will have a head-start on what an NHL life is all about.

"I'll just feel more comfortable coming in next year," Schwartz said. "I've got to earn a spot, so I'm looking forward to a good off-season. I learned a lot on the ice. Playing in seven games, you learned a ton, how much room there is out there, how hard it is and obviously watching too, you watch guys like [Andy] McDonald and [Alex] Steen ... guys that have been around for a while. You learn a lot from watching them and watching them practice. A lot of skill stuff I need to work on and I need to get stronger, too. I was really happy I got to come in. I'm looking forward to taking what I learned and going forward."

Schwartz was a healthy scratch for the nine playoff games. But getting a firsthand view of playoff hockey was beneficial in his eyes. He practiced with the team throughout the postseason.

"There's definitely a lot more on the line," Schwartz said. "Everything gets amped up a little bit and there's a lot less room out there. I learned a lot watching the San Jose series and the L.A. series. I'm glad to be here, especially practices. You learn a lot in that but games, too."
(Getty Images)
Jaden Schwartz (left) was able to score on his first two NHL shots after
signing an entry-level contract out of Colorado College.

Schwartz, who came off a 15-goal, 41-point sophomore season with the Tigers after tallying 17 goals and 47 points his freshman season, will work out with a personal trainer in his native Melfort, Saskatchewan but will make frequent visits to St. Louis to work with strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte as well.

For a family that struggled with the tragic loss of Jaden's sister Mandi Schwartz to acute myeloid leukemia a year ago in April, parents Rick and Carol Schwartz can find comfort in knowing their youngest son is on a successful path to the NHL.

"It's going to be a lot different," Schwartz said of his summer plans. "It's a very big off-season for me. I've got to come in and earn my spot and show them that I can make the team next year.

"It's going to be a long off-season. I've got to get stronger and focus on stuff on the ice as well. It's different goals and I'm looking forward to them, looking forward to the challenge."

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