October 04 2012 10:41AM
Jordan Schroeder has received a lot of coverage at CanucksArmy over the past year or so. He is one of the top prospects in the organization, and with Kesler out of the lineup until December, would have been given every opportunity to earn a roster spot at Canucks training camp this year.
He slipped a bit in his draft year amid concerns over size (or lack thereof) and attitude (apparently a few of his pre-draft interviews didn’t go all that well).
Fast forward three years and Schroeder is now entering his third year of pro hockey, and is being counted on to play big minutes for the Chicago Wolves. I spoke to Minnesota Wild strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson earlier this week, and Schroeder is one of a handful of pro hockey players that Olson works with each summer (others include Zach Parise, Drew Stafford, Derek Stepan, and Kyle Okposo).
Olson gave me some really good insights on Schroeder’s development both on and off the ice.
Angus: Schroeder is obviously a guy who people in Vancouver are paying attention to. For one, he is one of the club’s top prospects. And secondly, he was supposed to be the guy to fill in for Ryan Kesler on the second line.
That is one of the big things we talked about. He’s always been that finesse player, and he’s a hell of an athlete, too. He’s a very strong kid for his size. He came on the board as an offensive threat with the US National Development team as a 16-year-old.
I think you’re right. And then of course he played really well with the University of Minnesota. He’s a hell of a player, but the issue has been, that he never really had to battle or go in the corners before. A lot of the drills that I put these guys through on the ice are just that – battle drills. They’ll be up against the wall having to control the puck or steal the puck from their opponent. We’ve done a lot of that with him over the last couple of years.
I think he understands from the coaching staff [in Vancouver] what the expectations are for him. Having to play last year in the minors, and getting to dabble a bit in [a two-way] role more, I think he feels more confident going into this season.
Schroeder trained at Total Hockey Minnesota, which is owned and operated by Olson and his partner Bryce Salvador. It's an amazing facility, and it’s easy to see why so many of the top NHL players from Minnesota train there every summer.
Schroeder’s hard work paid off last year, and Chicago coach Craig MacTavish noticed.
"He's gone from a guy who was a bit of a peripheral player, not in the way he plays the game, but in terms of his value to our hockey club, to a guy who has a very prominent role and somebody we count on every night to play 20-plus minutes. He plays on the power play, he kills penalties. He's as effective a player as we have five-on-five and he makes players around him even better, so he's really improved."
I think Canucks fans should be looking for more of the same from Schroeder this season. He showed last year with Chicago that he can play a two-way role and he is a reliable defensive player.
Watching the Wolves this season (admittedly, mostly from afar), Schroeder’s season can be described as ‘steady.’ Mostly centring Chicago’s third line, the Minnesotan was also used in all situations. He bagged 21 goals, tying him with Darren Haydar for second on the team, and 44 points, good for third on the Wolves’ scoring table.
He’s short, but as Olson alluded to, he is quite strong (not only for his size – he’s generally a really strong guy). He is quite thick and hard to knock off the puck. It will be interesting to see if he establishes any chemistry with Zack Kassian on Chicago’s top scoring line (the Wolves also have a number of proven veterans who could make for good linemates, including Andrew Gordon, Darren Haydar, and Brett Sterling).
Here's the thing to remember about Jordan Schroeder, for those of you who don't think he's very good. He produced at a slightly higher rate with Chicago last season, than Cody Hodgson did in 2010-11 with the Manitoba Moose (his last season in the AHL).
He's also a significantly better (to my eyes) two-way player than Hodgson was at the same age. I'd further suggest to you that Schroeder's counting stats (which don't jump off the page at you), are deflated by an overall lack of power-play ice-time. In terms of Schroeder's even-strength production, he scored more points for the Chicago Wolves last season than every other player except Darren Haydar.