CALGARY, ALBERTA – As Jordan Schroeder continues to play impressively for the Wild, the 24-year-old former Gopher has been praised by coach Mike Yeo for how patient he has been waiting for this opportunity.
Of course, the same thing could be said for Schroeder's entire pro career.
Schroeder spent parts of five seasons in the minors after a dreamy 2009. That year, the Burnsville-born, Lakeville-raised Schroeder led the United States in scoring at the 2009 world junior championship in Ottawa and was named WCHA Rookie of the Year after leading the NCAA in rookie scoring with 45 points in 35 games for the Gophers. All that culminated with Schroeder being selected 22nd overall by Vancouver in the 2009 NHL draft.
The speedy but undersized forward spent two years in the minors — "which I needed" — before the 2012-13 lockout, meaning he spent another season maturing in the minors before being up and down with the Canucks after the lockout ended. The following season in 2013-14, Schroeder broke an ankle in training camp. In his third game back, he broke the same bone in the same ankle, underwent surgery and missed the next three months.
Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis was fired after last season. New management didn't tender a qualifying offer to Schroeder, who was due to become a restricted free agent, and that made him an unrestricted free agent. Looking for any opportunity anywhere, Schroeder didn't hesitate when Minnesota offered a two-way contract "because it's home."
"There are different paths to the NHL for everyone, so hopefully this is my time to come up and shine," said Schroeder, who has been recalled from AHL Iowa three times this season, played 10 games and in his most recent call-up has two goals and two assists in the past five games.
"It's been a lot of hard work and ups and downs, but that's pro hockey. It's not going to be just an easy path for everyone. I've been patient and worked my butt off this year to get this opportunity and am thankful for it."
As an eighth-grader at St. Thomas Academy, Schroeder was part of the Cadets team that advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history. The next year as a freshman, Schroeder won a state championship. He spent two years with the U.S. National Development team before graduating from high school a year early and spending two years at the University of Minnesota. He played in three world juniors, winning gold in Saskatchewan in 2010.
At 5-8, Schroeder has had nothing come easy for him. But with Jason Zucker out for the season following surgery on a broken clavicle, Schroeder's speed and offensive ability have been a needed boost.
Monday night in a 3-2 loss at Vancouver, Schroeder set up two Nino Niederreiter goals, one after using his speed to fly down the right-wing boards before centering a pass to the driving power forward. Last week in victories, he scored big goals against Vancouver and Carolina.
Nevertheless, after toiling in the minors for most of his pro career, Schroeder is experienced enough by now to know not to take anything for granted simply because he's having a few weeks of NHL success.
Coincidently, at that 2009 draft, Schroeder sat in the stands in Montreal hoping to hear his name called when his hometown Wild went to the podium. At 16th overall, the Wild instead took another Minnesotan, Nick Leddy.
Leddy ultimately was traded to Chicago, then to the Islanders. Six years later, Schroeder is a member of the Wild.
"That's how things work out," Schroeder said. "You never know what's going to happen in this business. You've got to appreciate every day when you get up here because you never know when it can end."