St. Louis Blues
prospect Jaden Schwartz
on Thursday was named captain of the Canadian National Junior Team for the upcoming 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.
Defenseman Brandon Gormley
and forwards Brett Connolly
, Quinton Howden
and Devante Smith-Pelly
were named the team's alternate captains. Schwartz, Connolly and Howden are the only three returning skaters from last year's silver medal-winning Canadian team in Buffalo, N.Y.
Goalie Mark Visentin
is also a returnee.
Schwartz had a goal and 2 assists while playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn
and Louis Leblanc
in the first two games of the WJC last year, but it ended suddenly when he suffered a broken left ankle in a 7-2 victory against the Czech Republic just two games into Team Canada's preliminary-round schedule.
"I've been waiting for this ever since that tournament ended," Schwartz told NHL.com. "I'm excited to be here. Sometimes you don't know how lucky you are, and if you get another opportunity to play for your country, you want to make the best of it and leave everything out there because you don't know how many chances you're going to get."
The opportunity is well-earned. In fact, during Team Canada's development camp held in Edmonton over the summer, Schwartz appeared to be a poised, polished and confident young man on and off the ice.
The 5-foot-9.5, 190-pound Schwartz, a first-round pick (No. 14) of the Blues in 2010, didn't seem too surprised when he learned that only four players from last year's team would be returning.
"That's kind of the intrigue of the tournament … you're always going to lose guys," Schwartz said. "This year there are four guys available; there are a lot of good hockey players in Canada. There are guys who want the experience and can step up and play a role. There were four returnees last year, and we ended up having a good team. I don't think this year is any different. I'm looking forward to playing with them."
It also didn't faze Schwartz that Canada coach Don Hay was preaching more of a speed and puck-possession game, where last year's team was more of a blue-collar, working-class bunch under the tutelage of Dave Cameron. The Canadiens earned a silver medal last year after losing to Russia in the gold-medal game.
"There are definitely a lot of skilled guys and players with talent," Schwartz said. "Last year we had a bigger team and Dave Cameron's style was blue-collar and grinding. Don Hay is kind of the same way, but he likes a hard-working team. From what I got in the summer, he likes guys who compete, likes to play aggressive and that was similar to last year. But there are a lot of skilled guys going to camp so it'll be competitive."
Schwartz is in his second year at Colorado College in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Not a day goes by when Jaden isn't thinking about his sister, Mandi, and the incredible legacy she left behind. Mandi Schwartz lost a two-year battle to acute myeloid leukemia April 3 at age 23. The impact she has had not only on those who knew her, but the entire hockey world, has been everlasting.
"Every day, no matter what I'm doing, she's always on my mind … you can't really explain the motivation and how much she helps me during the day, but it's there," Jaden said. "Sometimes, when I'm going through a tough time, I think of what she went through."
Schwartz said the entire family has been grateful for the support and encouragement it's received. Earlier this month, the Yale University women's hockey team raised approximately $18,000 for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation during the second annual "White Out for Mandi" at Ingalls Rink.
"It means so much to see what everyone has been doing, but I think just for what it means for cancer and helping other people, is even bigger," Schwartz said. "I think it's awesome what Yale is doing. I know there's a lot of awareness out there for cancer, but every little thing helps."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale