SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN – Jordan Schroeder is taking nothing for granted as he competes to make an NHL opening-night roster out of training camp for the first time.
But, with a massive round of cuts expected Sunday, the lightning-fast winger feels like a member of the Wild.
The Burnsville-born, Lakeville-raised winger was certainly treated like one this summer. He’ll be featured in a “Becoming Wild” episode on Fox Sports North next month. He represented the team at the Stadium Series news conference in August at TCF Bank Stadium. He was invited to the team’s corporate golf outing a few days before camp. And he didn’t spend another day in Iowa after a Feb. 3 recall to Minnesota last season.
“Playing in Minnesota and wearing this uniform, I almost feel more comfortable. I don’t know how to explain it,” said Schroeder, a former Gopher drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks in 2009. “I love being here. My family’s here. And being around all these guys last year and under this same coaching staff, I know what to expect.
“I think any guy that can play in their hometown would. It’s an honor to be able to do that because not that many people can.”
Schroeder, who turns 25 Tuesday, is a frontrunner to make the team. Before Schroeder playing an exhibition game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in the same arena where he won a gold medal with the United States at the 2010 world junior championships, coach Mike Yeo had praised Schroeder for a high-quality camp.
“I think he understands there’s an opportunity there for him, but he also understands there’s nothing laid out in front of him,” Yeo said. “He’s going to have to earn it, and I think that’s what’s led to him having a good camp, and him continuing to have a good camp will lend itself to him having a good season.”
Schroeder is one of the Wild’s fastest players and has impressive skill. But with so many players ahead of him on the depth chart, Schroeder found a way to be effective last season despite playing a bottom-six role with no power-play time. He scored three goals and had eight points in 25 regular-season games and got into three playoff games.
To play in the NHL, Schroeder knows he has to fit in differently than, say, when he led the U.S. in scoring at the 2009 world junior championships and was the WCHA Rookie of the Year for leading the NCAA in rookie scoring for the Gophers.
Schroeder said the past several years have been stressful. He was an up-and-down player in the Canucks organization, dealt with ankle injuries that limited his playing time and ultimately wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer.
He essentially had to start over when he signed a two-year, two-way contract with his hometown Wild last year. Even after getting called up last year, Schroeder had to accept being in and out of the lineup.
“You feel like you let yourself down if you don’t make the team out of camp,” Schroeder said. “But I’ve done a good job bouncing back and putting it behind me and working my butt off and making them call me up. That was my goal last year, and I got an opportunity in the second half, which was awesome, and now that brings us to here.
“But I still have to come in and earn everything. I know nothing’s going to be handed to me in this league.”
It’s fun for Schroeder to know how much support he has in the area. His parents, Deb and John, live in Lakeville. His brother, Zach, plays hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and his sister, Elly, goes to college in Duluth. In fact, they may spend his birthday together when the Wild heads there for three days of camp after Sunday’s preseason game against Winnipeg.
Elly went to the state tournament last year with Lakeville South. Jordan and Zach played hockey at St. Thomas Academy, where they won state championships. Schroeder is just a typical Minnesotan, one who loves to fish and golf.
“I just hope to stay here,” he said. “No matter where I’m at in the lineup, I’m going to support the team and work as hard as I can to help, whether that be top-six, top-nine, whether I’m not playing, whether I’m on the fourth line. This is where I want to be.”
It sounds like he will.
“He’s taken some big steps from where he was last year,” Yeo said. “He’s earned our confidence and now it’s a matter of him working his way into some more opportunities.”