April 21, 2013
DENVER – Jaden Schwartz had a clear look at the net, which meant Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere had no chance.
Schwartz, the former Colorado College star, launched a rocket shortside, and Giguere was frozen as the puck roared past his hip and into the back of the net. Schwartz and his Blues fell short Sunday at Pepsi Center, losing 5-3 to the Avalanche.
Not much inspires high emotion for Schwartz, and that includes his goal against the Avs.
“I was lucky enough for it to go in,” he said.
There is reason for excitement for the rest of us. The goal offered a glimpse into Schwartz’s future, which is bright.
When Schwartz goes to battle against one of the giants who inhabit the NHL, Blues star David Backes pays close attention. He knows Schwartz brings a 5-foot-9, weighs 185-pound (maybe) frame on the ice. He knows Schwartz can’t buy an alcoholic beverage until June.
“He’s against the wall with a guy 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 who is 10 years older,” Backes said. “And he comes away with the puck and makes the play. That show you what of drive the kid has.”
Yes, it does.
One year ago, Schwartz leaped from Colorado College to the Blues. He played his final game for the Tigers on a Saturday night, and competed for the Blues the next week. He was 19 when he made this huge jump.
“I was a little nervous,” Schwartz said. “I wasn’t sure I was ready for the speed, the size. Everything is so different.”
He is not dominating the NHL. Not yet. He’s collected 11 points this season (five goals, six assists) for a defensive-oriented Blues team.
But he’s so talented and so young. I’m almost certain success is ahead.
Schwartz refuses to use his less-than-massive frame as an excuse. He’s long watched undersized players find success. The way he sees it, smaller players can excel by being lower and quicker than defenders.
“I’ve been small my whole life,” Schwartz said. “I always heard I was too small to make it."
CC coach Scott Owens was often dazzled by Schwartz’s play during an (unfortunately for Tigers fans) abbreviated two-season career. Owens was standing a few feet off the ice for Schwartz’s end-to-end goal against Denver on Feb. 4, 2012. He watched one of the most spectacular goals in CC history.
Schwartz skated past nearly every player on the ice for DU. When the puck arrived in the net, 8,000 CC fans first gasped and then roared.
“I was a little bit in awe of how simple he made it look and how fluid he was,” Owens said of the goal. “It was a joy to watch.”
Owens was extremely sorry to see Schwartz depart for the NHL after his sophomore season, but he remains a strong believer in his former star.
“I think his NHL future is very good and the reason I say that is he has elite hockey intelligence,” Owens said. “He can see plays develop.”
Schwartz grew up in a remote section of Saskatchewan, Canada. He spent winter nights playing on a frozen pond with his brother, Rylan. Later, the brothers would skate together as CC teammates.
In the cold and darkness of those Canadian nights, Jaden wondered what might be ahead.
On Sunday, Schwartz talked about his new hockey life. He’s come a long way from those nights on the pond in the middle of nowhere.
“This is a dream come true,” he said as he glanced around a room filled with his Blues teammates.
And this dream is only going to get better.