Is there anything Jaden Schwartz can’t do?
The 14th overall selection by the Blues back in 2010, Schwartz has never been considered a slouch, by any means. But in his age-25 season, he is elevating his game to incredible new heights.
Entering Monday’s home tilt with the Kings, Schwartz was already positioned among the NHL’s point leaders. He kept up the pace in the Blues’ 4-2 win, adding a beautiful assist and a gritty goal to his tally. Outside the video game-like scoring output of the top line for Tampa Bay (Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have been unstoppable early this season), Schwartz’s 17 points are the most in the National Hockey League.
While it’s clearly time those around the league consider Schwartz among the elite players in the game, his superstar teammate wonders why anyone would’ve taken so long to figure it out.
“Schwartzy’s always been a great player, and we all know this,” Vladimir Tarasenko said. “Whenever guys say something wrong about him, that’s their own opinion, you know? Let them talk. We all know what kind of player Jaden is. He’s unbelievable, he has an unbelievable personality, and I don’t think he’s ever been underrated.”
A fierce teammate, Tarasenko seemed to deny or dismiss the mere notion that Schwartz’s contributions haven’t always been as widely recognized around the league as they are within the Blues locker room. But whether it’s a case of Schwartz finally getting his due or one where people knew about him all along, there’s no denying it—his eight goals and nine assists through 13 games definitely have people talking.
“Starting to get a lot more questions about him when we’re out of town, I know that,” Mike Yeo said. “That’s kind of when you get a sense of it. Obviously, you want that for your players. That’s not why he plays the game—he doesn’t play the game for people to talk about how good he is—but at the same time, he’s human. I’m sure he wants to be recognized for his efforts, and the start that he’s had, he’s got to be in the conversation with the top players in the league.”
Perhaps most notable throughout Schwartz’s hot start has been the sheer variety of ways in which he has impacted games.
Monday, Schwartz first announced his presence to the score sheet in the second period with a smooth-as-silk pass from the right wing onto Tarasenko’s tape as the latter drove through the left circle. Schwartz split two defenders with the puck, leaving just enough space for Tarasenko to operate around the outstretched stick of Drew Doughty before beating Jonathan Quick over his right shoulder.
The sequence was jam-packed with elite playmaking from two insanely skilled hockey players now thriving on the Blues’ top line. And Schwartz wasn’t done there. His eighth goal of the season came later in the second period and would no-doubt receive the Troy Brouwer seal of approval, as Schwartz held his ground in front of the net following a rebound, batting the puck out of the air and into the nylon.
It was yet another example this season of Schwartz's ability to adapt to what the flow of the game dictates.
“He can find a way to get to his game in different ways,” Yeo said. “Every game is going to present different challenges. Some games you’re going to have more opportunity off the rush; some games you’re going to have to find a way to get into the offensive zone. And he has the ability to do either. He has the hockey sense to recognize which is which and he’s got both the work ethic and the skill to capitalize on whatever opportunity he needs to.”
The sample size gets harder to ignore with each passing game: Jaden Schwartz is doing some special things on the ice this season. It’s looking like Tarasenko may no longer be the lone superstar on his team—of course, he already knew that.