Blues Draft Pick Schwartz Shines in St. Louis
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS In last year's NHL draft, the St. Louis Blues selected forward Jaden Schwartz with the No. 14 overall pick.
Friday night, Schwartz made his debut at the Blues' home arena, the Scottrade Center, a memorable one, even if it's not yet in a Blues sweater. The Colorado College freshman scored two goals and added two assists in an 8-4 rout of Boston College, the defending national champions in an NCAA First Round game.
"I felt pretty good out there," said the rookie sensation. "Hopefully I can be just as good or better tomorrow, but for my first game in the Scottrade, I thought it went pretty well."
"Pretty well" is, of course, an understatement. With the Tigers leading 2-1 early in the second period, Schwartz followed up on a rebound of his own shot, scoring an even-strength marker to double the CC lead. A mere 15 seconds later, his older brother Rylan — a sophomore and Jaden's centerman — found the scoresheet as well.
Amazingly, it was the ninth time this season that Colorado College has scored two goals within a minute of each other.
Said the younger Schwartz, "I was just working hard and sticking to the game plan. Our line played well, and our whole team did. Some days, you get bounces. Some you don't. Today felt nice."
Entering Friday's NCAA first round contest against Boston College, Schwartz had 15 goals and 42 points in 28 games. He posted those gaudy numbers despite missing 15 games with a broken left ankle, which he suffered while playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in December.
Now, Schwartz is back in game shape — and he's proving it.
"Obviously, Jaden has taken it to another level," said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens. "I just think he was excited with the prospect of coming here to play, playing in an NHL building. He's been treated very, very well here. He got a nice applause for the introduction. He's excited and motivated because he wants to be a St. Louis Blue some day.
"And that's an advantage for us."
Schwartz provided the momentum for an offense that, on Friday in front of the St. Louis Blues brass, scored two shorthanded goals and added two power-play goals as well. CC had amassed just three man-down markers all year — and, somewhat ironically, the Tigers lead the nation in shorthanded goals allowed, with 11.
Colorado College, after finishing sixth in the WCHA standings with a 13-13-2 record in league play, brought an overall record of 22-18-3 to St. Louis. A week ago, the Tigers fell to top-ranked North Dakota in the WCHA semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.
Now, looking to add to the national championships they won in 1950 and 1957, the Tigers are one win away from the Frozen Four — set to face Michigan on Saturday night in a rematch of the Great Lakes Invitational tournament championship game during the holiday season. In that game, the Wolverines overcame a one-goal deficit with six minutes to play, emerging victorious by a 6-5 score.
Jaden Schwartz, of course, was not present, as he was preoccupied with Team Canada at the World Juniors.
"The puck is strong on his stick," said Owens of the future St. Louis Blue. "He's playing like an older player, instead of a freshman. He's making plays with the puck. He's shooting with authority. He's in a place right now where he wants to win. He's a difference maker when he's playing that way, and he's very hard to defend."
It has helped, certainly, that Schwartz — who has contributed to the 110 total points scored by CC's dynamic freshman class this season — has been playing on the left wing of his older brother Rylan.
"It's fun," said Jaden. "We cherish it, and we have a lot of fun with it. It's exciting for us, and it's exciting for our family. If they're not in the rink, they're watching back home on TV."
Despite the on-ice success of the Schwartz brothers this season, family has perhaps been their primary focus all year. Their sister Mandi plays hockey too and is a former member of the Yale women's hockey team.
Since December 2008, she has battled a condition known as acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, an aggressive form of cancer characterized by an abnormal growth of cells in the bone marrow.
Said Schwartz, "After I got hurt in the World Juniors, I went home for a couple weeks and got to spend some good family time there. She's feeling — it's kind of a day to day thing, but overall, she's feeling pretty well right now."
And so, with family heavily on his mind — and with the potential to reach the Frozen Four in front of the NHL organization that drafted him — Schwartz plans on taking it all in stride.
"One down, and one to go to get to the Frozen Four," said Schwartz, grinning. "It's going to be a lot of fun, and we can't wait."
If Friday's performance is a sign of the future, fans of the St. Louis Blues can't wait either.
Anjeli Prabhu contributed to this article.