The NHL may be in the midst of a lockout with no end in sight, but former Colorado College star Jaden Schwartz isn’t second-guessing his decision to leave college early for the pro ranks.
Schwartz, an All-American during the 2011-12 season, was offered a professional contract by the St. Louis Blues in March after leading the Tigers in scoring as a freshman (17 goals, 30 assists) and a sophomore (15 goals, 26 assists). He made an immediate impact, scoring goals in each of his first two games — including on his first shot — but he was left off the Blues’ playoff roster.
The 20-year-old heard rumblings about labor strife this summer and was disappointed to see the lockout become a reality.
“It was something I had a feeling would happen,” said Schwartz, who had three points in seven games for the Blues. “I was hoping they’d get a deal done, but obviously they didn’t. I didn’t expect it to drag on this long, but with things like that you never know what will happen.
“You don’t want to see that happen, and it’s definitely not ideal.”
While the NHL’s Players Association and the league have been negotiating, Schwartz has been playing with the American Hockey League’s Peoria (Ill.) Rivermen, the top affiliate of the Blues. He has played in 18 games and is tied for fifth on the team with eight points (5 goals, 3 assists).
Schwartz has been enjoying his time on the ice, especially considering many NHL players are struggling to find places to play.
“It’s always nice to play hockey,” he said. “No one wants a lockout, but at the same time, I’m doing something I love to do with a good group of guys. This is my first full year in pro hockey, so I’m just getting used to it all, learning each day and trying to get better.”
Schwartz isn’t sure where he would have ended up in the Blues’ organization if the NHL season had begun on time, but he’s working to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m learning, and I learned a lot last year when I went up with St. Louis,” Schwartz said. “I’m just trying to make my overall game better and have been working on things that, when the NHL does start up, I’ll be ready, and will give myself the best opportunity to make the NHL. I’m just trying to improve as much as I can and to win hockey games.”
His experiecne in March was a thrill Schwartz won’t soon forget.
“I didn’t expect to jump in right away like that and have some success early on,” he said. “I was just trying to contribute and learn as much as I could. I was really nervous and excited, and it was a dream come true to be there.
“I jumped into a really good hockey team with a lot of really good players, so I was fortunate that way. The guys welcomed me very well and gave me a lot of advice. It was a dream come true, and something I’ll never forget.”
Just because he’s at peace with his decision to leave CC early doesn’t mean Schwartz doesn’t miss his time with the Tigers.
“Any time an NHL team asks you to go join their club right away and they tell you you’re going to play NHL games right away, it’s hard to say no to,” Schwartz said. “That’s everyone’s dream, and I was really excited to get that opportunity. I had a lot of good relationships, good friendships and had a lot of fun my two years there (at CC), and there are a lot of fond memories I won’t forget.
“I definitely miss it, but, at the same time, I made my decision and am happy with it.”
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