Thursday, June 17, 2010

First round draft spotlight: Jaden Schwartz

Jaden Schwartz, C Tri-City Storm (USHL)
5-9, 188
Born: June 25, 1992 in Melfort, Saskatchewan
Shoots: Left

Scouting report: Offensive wizard tore up the USHL and is one of the draft's best pure offensive talents, even if his skating is pretty average for his small size.

Strengths: Hockey sense out the wahzoo; has a panoramic view of the ice, diagrams and instantly processes the unfolding play and has a natural understanding of the offensive flow of the game. Slippery and elusive; jitterbugs a lot and throws off bigger, stronger defenders who don't have the agility or footwork to stay with him. Plays a gritty, passionate game that belies his small stature; not afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice or play in traffic. Blocks shots and shows a willingness to do the tough work and pay a price physically. Possesses excellent puck skills; can handle the puck like it's on a string and feathers soft and hard passes anywhere he wants them to go. Shot has surprising power and torque given his size. Plays with the kind of chip on his shoulder that other guys who've always been told that they can't play hockey at a high level because of their size always have.

Weaknesses: Size. Listed at 5-9, which means he's really closer to 5-7 when his skates are off. Skating isn't a flaw, but he doesn't have that explosive jump or blazing speed NHL teams feel a lot more comfortable with when you're looking at a player as small as Schwartz is. Will require a few years of developmental time in the NCAA; not ready for the rigors of pro hockey.

Style compares to: Scott Gomez

Draft prediction: 19th overall to Los Angeles. OK- full disclosure here. Schwartz probably won't go that high, but I like him a lot, and wanted him in my top-20. Most mocks have him going after 25 and the size is going to play a factor in it, but given his desire and attitude, I'm not so sure I wouldn't be banging the table to grab him around this part of the draft if my team needed the infusion of offensive punch and the ferociously competitive mentality he brings. Small guys with the pure skill and upside Schwartz has are continuing to prove the old adage about size mattering the most wrong, and if you look at the dominant scoring performances he's had at just about every level, he makes sense going to the Kings, who have some good size and skill up front and could probably put a player of his talents to proper use. If not, then maybe you're looking at a Riley Sheahan or local Beau Bennett here. The Bennett pick isn't a bad value given where he's been projected and the fact that he's from Cali would be a nice bonus. Jarred Tinordi's excellent defense, toughness and character would be a welcome addition to the Kings as well. If the Kings are looking for another skilled blue liner to complement Drew Doughty, then they might be willing to gamble a little by taking Justin Faulk, who is kind of like a defense version of Schwartz-- small, but very talented and feisty.

Projection: Schwartz has top-six upside, but should be a solid third liner even with the small size because he does so many things well. Even though he lacks the height and explosiveness, he's just one of those guys who seems to have that special "it" that most everyone else can only dream about. The size is going to scare some teams off, but the club that takes a chance on him and invests that early pick that he'll require could see a very nice payoff not too far down the road. He needs to work on his strength and quickness in Colorado Springs, but he's going to a good college program and will have his brother to help him with the transition.

Background: Central Scouting's 28th-ranked North American on their final list, but is #18 in the Red Line Report 2010 Draft Guide.Will turn 18 on the day that he could be an NHL first-round pick. A graduate of the prestigious Notre Dame Hounds program in Wilcox, Saskatchewan (his hometown), where teammates included Brandon Gormley. While there, he broke scoring records held by none other than Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier with 39 goals, 111 points in 44 games during the 2007-08 season. Spent the 08-09 season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before switching to the USHL. Led the league in scoring with 33-50-83 points in 60 games; the next-best scorer on his team had 45 in what is normally a more physical, defensive league. He scored the most points in that league since Thomas Vanek in 2001-02. Older brother, Rylan, plays for Colorado College; Jaden will join him there. Older sister, Mandi, in a battle with leukemia at age 22. She captained the Notre Dame women's team in Wilcox and played at Yale University before being diagnosed with blood cancer in 2008.

Quotable:

"Little puck magician has terrific hockey sense. Thrives on guile and a freakish understanding of game situations."- Red Line Report, 2010 Draft Guide

"Jaden was obviously a highly-touted player coming out of the junior hockey league, but the thing that sets him apart from other skilled players is his fearlessness and the fact he'll go down to block shots or take a hit if it means making a play. He's a special kid in my eyes because he'll do the dirty work in addition to finishing around the net when given the chance."- Tri-City Storm head coach Drew Schoneck to NHL.com; November, 2009

"I haven't seen a lot of kids with the kind of determination and will to succeed no matter what that Jaden has. Ask him to do something to help the team win and he'll do it. Put on the pads and play in net? Check. Drive the bus? Check. But at the end of the day, he's such a dynamic offensive force that all you really need him to do is go out there and play his game and the rest takes care of itself."- NHL scout to New England Hockey Journal; May, 2010

"It meant a lot to see my name so high on that list and I'm glad to be getting the recognition. I know it's only a ranking, but you can't help but read that list and no matter where you fall on it, you want to work even harder to improve and maybe climb the ladder."- Jaden Schwartz to NHL.com; November, 2009

"I've heard (Schoneck) say that (fearless) a few times about me, but when you watch the best players in the game, they're fearless too. I want to be that guy going into the corners and dropping to block shots when needed. Doing the dirty work helps your team win and that's what I'm set on doing."- Jaden Schwartz to NHL.com; November, 2009

"Mandi and Rylan were already playing and I wanted to join them, and she was definitely a part of me playing hockey," Jaden said. "We've kind of always played together every summer on the ponds or on the rink. She's such a hard worker, just like she is in anything in life. She's dedicated and wants to be the best she can. She can play scrimmages with the guys, so she was right there with all of us."- Jaden Schwartz to NHL.com; June, 2010

The scoop:

Schwartz Won't Let His Size Slow Him Down
http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=507323

Schwartz's Excitement Tempered By Sister's Illness
http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=531722

4 comments:

  1. How would you compare him to Krejci? Smaller obviously, but a lot of what you wrote under "strengths" reminds me of Krejci.

    Doesn't look like guy who will be under serious consideration by the Bruins, though I like your description of him a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're right, Michael- not a serious consideration by the Bruins, but still a worthy selection in my book. Just seems to have that extra something that some bigger, more hyped players do not.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

    I share your enthusiasm about Schwartz. As a Coyotes fan, I'm praying they take him at 22 and could honestly justify his selection at 13. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for with his off-the-charts hockey sense, vision and motor. He just *gets* it on an absurd level.

    If you take a look at the top forwards in the league, every one of them is lacking at least one big thing: some are slow, some are smaller, some are soft, some don't backcheck. But every single one of them has elite hockey sense. It's the make-or-break trait, and it's something that Jaden Schwartz has in spades.

    ReplyDelete