Schneider thrives on special teams
The Vancouver Canucks knew exactly what they were getting when they went after Vernon’s Stefan Schneider.
A two-time recipient of the WHL Portland Winterhawks’ Bill Anderson Memorial Trophy for character and ability, along with the Robert R. Boss Memorial Award as the Hawks’ best defensive player, Schneider continued to display his responsible hockey style in his rookie season with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
A defenceman-turned-centre, Schneider recorded two goals and two assists in 47 games, playing mainly fourth-line minutes with the Moose. His minus-2 rating might indicate otherwise, but as one half of the Moose’s first-line penalty killing unit, he got the job done against the league’s top snipers.
He also boasted the lowest penalty minutes-per-game total on the team (0.19), with just nine minutes served.
“I was happy about that, working my way into special teams. When we were down, I wasn’t playing as much because that wasn’t really my role to score goals, but when we were up a goal I was out there every second or third shift,” said Schneider, who turns 22 in December.
“I enjoy checking and shutting down those top guys so it’s something I’m working hard towards.”
At 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds, Schneider had a distinct size advantage against WHL opposition. In minor pro, he is only slightly above average.
“From being the oldest in junior to being one of the youngest in pro is an adjustment. I was still towering over some guys, but there’s a lot of guys bigger and stronger than I was. And just the speed of the game; everyone’s thinking a move ahead out there.
“It took me about two weeks to a month to get used to the speed, but after that I fit right in and worked my way into the lineup and stayed there.”
With his size advantage negated, Schneider, who agreed to a three-year, two-way contract with Vancouver in March 2010, is working on his mobility and explosiveness to keep up with the competition. Heading into Canucks rookie camp, he was hitting the gym five days a week, plus three on-ice sessions.
“I’m just building strength, getting quicker. I’m in Kelowna three times a week working on my skating, working on my first three steps and quickness,” said Schneider.
He reported to Vancouver for a medical and fitness testing Friday. The camp has since relocated to Penticton for the Young Stars Tournament, featuring prospects from the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and relaunched Winnipeg Jets.
Vancouver’s prospects open the tourney today against Edmonton.
“Last year it was Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle from Edmonton, this year it’ll be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers’ first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft). There’s talent throughout the whole league and there’s talent throughout the prospects so it’s always a good battle and good tournament,” said Schneider.
Aaron Volpatti, a former Vernon Viper also signed with the Canucks, has been training with Schneider in the offseason. The two played some minutes together in Manitoba and he feels Schneider’s defensive skill set make him a valuable asset to the organization.
“He could be a diamond-in-the-rough kind of guy. He didn’t really plan on playing pro, he was planning on going to college,” said Volpatti, a Revelstoke native.
“Vancouver obviously saw something. He’s a helluva defensive player on the penalty kill. He’s a big boy and he’s probably going to get a little stronger in the next couple years.”
With the Moose relocating to St. John’s to make way for the returning Winnipeg Jets, the Canucks turned to the Chicago Wolves as their new AHL affiliate. Schneider doesn’t think the change of scenery will matter much. If he had it his way, he’ll be apartment hunting in Vancouver.
“I’m just going to go to Vancouver’s camp (starts Sept. 16), and when I have to go look for one (apartment) I’ll go look for one,” shrugged Schneider.
“It (Chicago) should be pretty similar to Winnipeg for weather, so it shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment.”