Canucks take Jordan Schroeder with first-round pick
He's small, but Jordan Schroeder was considered a big steal by the Vancouver Canucks with the 22nd overall pick in the NHL entry draft on Friday night in Montreal.
While general manager Mike Gillis admitted the franchise has a need for a depth puck-moving defenceman, he passed on North Vancouver native Stefan Elliott of the Saskatoon Blades because he had Schroeder ranked much higher. When the 5-foot-9 University of Minnesota centre slipped from 15th in TSN's respected ranking, the Canucks felt the need to snap up a strong two-way performer who had 40 points (13-27) in 32 college games last season as a freshman and had 11 points (3-8) in six world junior championship games for the U.S.
"We had Jordan much higher rated and we didn't feel he'd be available to get and when he was there, we were taking him," said Gillis. "We're very excited about it."
Schroeder, 18, was obviously excited to be welcomed into the franchise fold by Roberto Luongo. The Montreal native added more fuel to speculation that he has a contract announcement coming up on July 1 by taking to the Bell Centre podium.
"We're on course with Roberto and excited about the prospects and he seems to be very excited, so we're happy," said Gillis, who added that he expects to also solidify an extension with unrestricted free agents Henrik and Daniel Sedin, even though the sides are far apart.
Meanwhile, Schroeder didn't seem bothered that he slipped from other overall rankings — ninth by The Hockey News and 14th by the International Scouting Service — to land with the Canucks.
"I'm sure everyone is a little nervous before they get picked — everyone wants to go as high as possible — and I think I'm in the best situation," said Schroeder. "Vancouver is a great organization and I'm looking forward to it."
In fact, Schroeder seemed more moved by having Luongo greet him at the podium than donning the traditional draft-day jersey. It was as if Schroeder could imagine that one day he'd be playing in front of the goaltender, should Luongo agree to a long-term extension.
"That made it even more special," said Schroeder. "It was definitely an honour and I'll remember that for the rest of my life. I hope he stays because he seems like a pretty cool guy."
Pretty cool would also describe Schroeder's season in which he showed flashes of a budding Patrick Kane and maybe even a little Joe Sakic.
Schroeder was fourth in the NCAA with a 1.3 points per game average and the only freshman to finish the season in top 50 in scoring. The 180-pound centre was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's top rookie, the College Hockey News National top rookie, the Minnesota Gophers top rookie and was a WCHA second team all-star.
The Prior Lake, Minn. native also competed for the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program for two seasons, leading the team in scoring in 2007-08 with 53 points (21-31) in 55 games.
"I have that hockey sense and playmaking ability and I'm able to set up my teammates and make them better," said Schroeder. "I can put the puck in the back of the net as well and I definitely look up to Patrick Kane, Brian Gionta and Martin St. Louis. They're definitely an inspiration.
"The game is changing and teams want more of an offensive style, so I'm definitely looking forward to it."
The Canucks had early interest in Schroeder. They were the first to interview him last fall and seemed smitten with him at the NHL draft combine last month in Toronto. That's where he finished second in bench-press testing — doing 13 reps of a 150-pound weight — to prove his fitness level had improved. And Schroeder also scored high in the interview process. So when he was still available Friday night, there was no hesitation at the Canucks table.
"It was a no-brainer," said Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman, who watched Schroeder perform at the world junior tournament. "He's an exceptionally skilled player, a dynamic guy who can create plays and also shoot. He has a lot of the attributes you look for and is a real competitive guy. I don't want to put too much pressure on this kid, but Patrick Kane is a similar player in being small guy with real good offensive instincts. Jordan has similar attributes.
"And he can play in traffic and isn't intimidated by other players."
Good bloodlines don't hurt, either.
Schroeder's father, John, played basketball, football and baseball but not hockey. His mother, Deb, was a gymnast and was also a cross-country runner. That's why it's not surprising that brother Zach, 16, and sister Elly, 12, have also taken up the game in Minnesota that's known as the State of Hockey.
"I was the first one in my family to get into hockey," said Schroeder, who first started skating on outdoor ponds and rinks at age four. "My dad wanted me to play basketball, but I grew up with a lot of older kids in the neighbourhood and wanted to play hockey with them. But I think I also got some good genes and that kind of matters."
Schroeder is also a teammate of Patrick White. The Canucks selected the struggling Gophers centre 25th overall in 2007 after passing on David Perron, who has established his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues. White has just 13 goals in 81 games through two seasons at the University of Minnesota.
"Patrick is coming along," said Schroeder. "We're trying to get him to play a little more physical. He's a big kid and he has a lot of potential — a lot of upside."
E-mail reporter Ben Kuzma at email@example.com
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