Jaden Schwartz is displaying a new level of confidence of late, one not customary for a young winger with only 83 professional games under his belt.
The Wilcox, Saskatchewan native first joined the Blues only two years ago towards the end of the 2011-12 season. He is still relatively new to the National Hockey League, but one wouldn’t be able to tell that by watching the 21-year-old in action.
Schwartz put on another impressive display last Thursday with a goal and two helpers. It was Schwartz’s eighth goal and 22nd point of the year, both of which are new career highs for the forward.
“He’s just a good player. He’s got confidence and he’s strong on the puck,” said Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. “He’s a great 200-foot player. When you have enough of those guys, that is what wins you championships.”
Hitchcock said that he thinks Schwartz’s confidence really began to grow in last year’s playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings and he carried it into this season.
Now, Schwartz is becoming a consistent point-producer for the Blues. He has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his last 12 games, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, as the season moves on, Schwartz seems to be getting more confident. As a result, the Blues have moved him into a Top 6 forward role.
“I think it’s just being consistent, focused each game,” said Schwartz. “When you are watching and hoping, that is when things aren’t going to go well. So I’m trying to move my feet as best I can when I’m out there. I’m getting more opportunities. And when you are playing more and touching the puck more, you are going to get more confidence as you go.”
Blues captain, David Backes, said it’s Schwartz’s hard work that puts him in a spot to succeed, and his game inspires the team to play better every night.
“I think he’s finally feeling confident and comfortable in his role,” said Backes. “He’s a guy that’s got a shot as good as anyone’s. He works his butt off. He goes up there against the biggest guys and comes out of the corners with pucks. It’s inspiring. We need to use that.”
Schwartz is not the biggest of players by any means. He is just shorter than six feet tall, but continues to create persisting problems for opponents. Backes playfully called Schwartz “short and stout” when describing the forward.
“Height’s not everything,” said Schwartz’s linemate Chris Stewart. “(Schwartz) competes on the puck and plays bigger than his size.”
Stewart is not accustomed to playing with Schwartz. He joined Schwartz on a line with Vladimir Sobotka, who is also short in stature, a few games ago. And, as every player seems to do when playing with Schwartz and Sobotka, Stewart has found a bit of success.
“They set the tone and if you are with them and not trying to keep up with them, it’s going to be pretty obvious,” said Backes. “I think that’s what draws guys in.”
Schwartz was pleased when he found out he would be joining Sobotka on a line. Earlier this year, Schwartz was playing with Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko. That line found some success early, but the chemistry died off a bit. It was hard for Schwartz not to be jubilant about playing with Sobotka, who is a similar type of player.
“I was excited,” Schwartz said. “We played a couple of games together last year, but we never really stuck. We are both guys who like to put our work boots on each shift. We feed off of each other pretty well.
“He and I share a lot of qualities. He is a very, very hard worker. When he gets the puck he is going to make a smart play. He’s good in all three zones which is good for us.”
Sobotka’s game has been praised all season. However, Schwartz was often overlooked earlier in the year. Hitchcock said that’s somewhat because of the subtleness of Schwartz’s game, such as his good penalty killing, or his puck battles along the boards. But in Hitchcock’s eyes, Schwartz is set to become a star in the National Hockey League.
Hitchcock told the media that he thinks Schwartz is going to become the next Zach Parise. Parise, who plays for the Minnesota Wild, is highly regarded around the League. He is also a player Schwartz has long looked up to.
“That means a lot because he is a pretty unreal player,” said Schwartz. “He’s one of those guys that’s had a great career so far because of his work ethic and how focused he is every night. He’s a guy that you can easily learn from him by watching; a guy that I looked up to as well. If I can share the qualities that he has, that’d be a good start for me.”
It certainly has been a great career start for Schwartz, who has 17 goals, 38 points in his first 83 NHL games. Hard work is the key to success for Schwartz, who isn’t the bulkiest player in the NHL. With his amplified role, it’s looking like Schwartz will become a commonly talked about name around the League. It’s not often that a player who stands at 5’10” dominates in as physical a sport as hockey, but Schwartz is defying the odds, and becoming a key player for St. Louis.
“I knew when I came into the NHL that there are a lot of skilled players,” said Schwartz. “There are guys that are bigger than me, stronger than me, so I have to do something that is going to make me productive and I think I can do that with my hard work.”