Youngsters Making Key Contributions for NHL Playoff Contenders
Often times, 19-year-olds, even if they are first round draft picks, won’t see the NHL for a few years. But due to some odd circumstances, two players just shy of their 20th birthdays, Calgary’s Sven Baertschi and St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz, have been called into action early for their respective teams. And Baertschi and Schwartz have answered that call impressively in their short time as professionals.
Jaden Schwartz, the Blues’ first round draft choice in 2010 (14th overall), was in a bit of an odd situation. His college team (Colorado College) had missed the playoffs, so Schwartz decided to forego his final two years of collegiate athletic eligibility. But, because the American Hockey League’s “Clear day deadline” (the day by which all AHL teams must submit the players who will be eligible for playoff rosters) had already passed, Schwartz couldn’t be added to the Peoria Rivermen’s roster (St. Louis’ AHL affiliate), and therefore couldn’t get any minor-league seasoning before heading into the pros. The Blues, not wanting their top prospect to be left in the limbo between the college and the professional leagues without a contract, signed Schwartz to an entry-level contract on March 12th, 2012, and had him in their starting lineup five days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning as an injury fill-in. The Blues, who currently sit atop the NHL standings with 100 points (as of this writing on March 21st, 2012), didn’t have to wait long for their investment in Schwartz to pay off. In his first NHL game (on his first NHL shot, no less), Schwartz knocked in a power-play goal to give the Blues a 2-0 lead midway through the game, a tally which ended up being the game-winner as the St. Louis defeated Tampa Bay 3-1.
The circumstances surrounding Sven Baerstchi’s insertion into the Calgary Flames’ roster are even stranger. The Flames, who have lost more ice-time from players due to injury than any other team this year, had already used two emergency call-ups to fill injured players’ spots in the lineup. So, as per an agreement with the junior level Central Hockey League, an NHL could call up a prospect if that team had already used up two emergency call-ups. So, the Flames, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, felt as though there was no harm in promoting Baertschi to their roster. Baertschi was the Flames 2011 first round pick (11th overall), but Calgary does prefer to keep their prospect in the developmental leagues for a few years. But due to these dire circumstances, Calgary’s hand was forced, and they felt as though it was the right time to give one of their top young prospects a taste of the professional game. Baertschi didn’t disappoint, quickly validating the Flames decision to call him up. Baertschi scored three goals in his first four games with the Flames, and he’s remained in the lineup for an additional two games, a stretch that has seen Calgary go 4-1-1 to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Despite the circumstances surrounding these two young players’ baptism by fire into the NHL, Jaden Schwartz and Sven Baertschi have both passed their tests with flying colors, and have rewarded their respective teams’ faith with both production in the present and hope the future.
By lead columnist Arun Morace