Lost at times among the freshest faces currently in the Vancouver Canucks camp – and the chatter about possibly developing those prospects at the National Hockey League level this season – is Jordan Schroeder.
Schroeder, the Canucks’ first-round pick from the 2009 NHL Draft, has come to training camp on a brand new one-year contract following an off-season in which he underwent surgery in May to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
The diminutive 22-year-old center suited up in 31 games for the Canucks last season, splitting time between the big club and Chicago in the American Hockey League.
He’s looking to stick with the Canucks on a full-time basis, although he’s facing stiff competition.
The Canucks are already set at centre on their top two lines, with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler occupying those spots.
It’s on the third and fourth lines where jobs up the middle are up for grabs, and thus where the battles are.
The Canucks signed Brad Richardson as a free agent, selected Bo Horvat with the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft and are taking a look at 2012 first-round selection Brendan Gaunce. Add Mike Santorelli, once a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, to the list.
Schroeder is likely to play for the Canucks in Wednesday’s exhibition tilt against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena. It’s his first real chance to make an impression on the new coach, John Tortorella.
“I have to step up,” said Schroeder.
“It’s not about scoring one goal, skating hard. It’s everything. You’ve got to be able to do it all, being positionally sound, knowing when to chip pucks, move pucks, when to shoot the puck, (when to block shots).”
For a few years now, Schroeder has been dealing with an ailing shoulder.
It would pop out, typically after contact and sometimes during games, and then pop right back in, causing him pain.
“It was more of an annoying thing to deal with,” he said. “I’ve just learned a lot. You grow up, you become a better professional each and every year, you learn more things, you learn more about hard work and what it takes to stay here.”
He finally decided to have an operation on it this off-season.
“It’ll be good to put that in the past,” he said.
“It’s a lengthy process to rehab, usually five to six months but I was able to come back a little quicker.”
He’s taken his hits on it during the scrimmages. Any initial feelings of hesitation are now gone, and they have to be with the number of centres at camp looking to land with the Canucks.
“Any kind of competition is good competition,” said Schroeder.
“Would I just be handed a spot, I mean it would be nice but it’s not the case. You’ve got to go out there and earn it.”
His main evaluator, Tortorella, will watch Wednesday’s game from high above ice level. (He sat next to the press box on Monday.)
Tortorella is not yet particularly familiar with Schroeder’s game, although his speed has caught the attention of the new coach.
“I’m anxious to see him play,” said the coach.
“I like his speed, I like his tenacity as far as on the puck. So now he’ll play and we’ll see where we go.”