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Third times a charm

Wednesday, 09.12.2009 / 4:55 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Third times a charm

Jordan Schroeder is set to make another splash at the World Juniors.

The Vancouver Canucks picked Jordan Schroeder in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for a myriad of reasons.

Schroeder can score, Schroeder can pass, Schroeder can make plays.

It was on one of hockey’s biggest stages at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship that this was reaffirmed to the Canucks as Schroeder has been a superior player for Team USA over the last two years.

Schroeder, a sophomore center with the Minnesota Gophers, was recently invited to the American junior selection camp and at age 19, he’s primed to become the first Gopher to play in three world junior championships.

Dave Gagner, director of player development for the Canucks, believes that Schroeder, who has 19 points in 12 career World Junior games but has yet to land on the podium, will be an integral part of Team USA’s bid to knock off Team Canada, the five-time defending champions.

“He creates scoring chances, every time he touches the puck in the offensive zone something good happens,” said Gagner. “He makes really good decisions with the puck. He doesn’t force things that aren’t there; he knows that if you make a simple play and get it back, it changes the defensive scheme. He doesn’t go for the home run pass, he understands how to be patient and create offence that way.”

With 15 assists at the World Junior tournament, Schroeder is already the U.S. squad’s all-time assists leader having surpassed former NHLer Dough Weight’s previous mark of 14 last year.

Schroeder will be one of three players suiting up for America from last year’s team, a list that includes Danny Kristo and Tyler Johnson. All three will be counted on for offence and leadership when the tournament takes place in Saskatchewan from December 26 to January 5.

The 22nd overall pick of the 2009 NHL Draft should have no problem contributing and either matching or exceeding his past numbers at the World Juniors, but this year he’s not heading in playing as well as he’d like.

In Schroeder’s rookie season with the Gophers, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Minnesota product had 45 points (13-32-35) in 35 games. He was fourth in the NCAA averaging 1.3 points per game and was the only freshman to finish the season in the top 50 in scoring.

His second season with the rodents hasn’t been as productive thus far. Although Schroeder is second in team scoring with four goals and 10 points in 16 games, he feels he can do better. So does Gagner.

“To me, he has to continue to learn to play a gritty game and be strong on the puck, that will really benefit him when he starts his pro career. He’s my size and I had to learn that the hard way, I was up and down in the minors for four years until I figured out that I have to come every day and play nasty.

“Having said that, I’m pretty confident that he’ll be the leading scorer by the end of the season and he’ll again be strong at the juniors.”

The 29 players invited to the Team USA’s preliminary camp will gather from Dec. 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D. An exhibition game later and cuts will be made prior to Christmas.

There won’t be any coal in Schroeder’s stocking, he’s a lock to make the team.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT RODIN

The Canucks were slated to have three prospects playing at the World Juniors, but with Cody Hodgson on the shelf unable to perform for Team Canada, Schroeder and Swedish forward Anton Rodin will hold down the fort.

Rodin, the 53rd overall selection from the 2009 draft and Vancouver’s highest European pick since picking Daniel and Henrik Sedin second and third overall in 1999, is a shoo-in to crack the Swedish line-up, especially with his resume boasting a mountain of international experience. He was twice named MVP at the Five Nations Tournament and he exceeded expectations at the U20 National Team tournament where he was named to the all-Star team.

If given the opportunity to let his skills do the talking, Gagner feels Rodin will be a major part of any success Sweden has at the World Juniors.

“He’s going to get a chance to play sometime in the tournament and I don’t know if he’s going to start on the second line or if he’ll be on the fourth line, that’s up to him,” said Gagner.

“With the puck he’s very dynamic, he’s got a lot of lateral skill, one-on-one he’s tough to contain because he shifts so quickly. He can be very dangerous.”

Rodin proved just that during a three-game mini-tour in November where Team Sweden faced off against three teams from the CIS. The swift winger had six points in only three games, despite coming off the bench as the 13th forward.

Making the best of that situation has thrust Rodin into the limelight for Team Sweden and chances are good he’ll remain there during the World Juniors.