Subsequent to a marvelous campaign which saw prospect Nate Schnarr win an OHL championship with the Guelph Storm, the 20-year-old forward, who showcased choice scoring touch while putting up north of 100 points, now prepares to play for the Memorial Cup as he puts a cap on a junior hockey career that exemplified timely development.
The Coyotes' third-round selection from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft erupted to total 102 points during the regular season, leading Guelph in scoring and ranking ninth overall in the OHL.
Striking output to complement a leadership role he attained prior to the year, appointed as one of the Storm's two alternate captains.
"It was really an unbelievable season," he said in recollect. "Coming into it I felt like I had prepared myself well, and that was big for me. I got it going early and found a lot of chemistry with my line mates. I felt like I was playing some of the best hockey I ever have in my life."
That chemistry Schnarr established with his teammates sparked his game and led to 68-assists, the third-highest total in the OHL.
"I found some confidence and I wanted the puck," the Waterloo, ONT. native added. "I got a lot of feedback from Arizona player development and I think that was huge, to make sure that I was working on the things I need to be working on to be able to play at the next level."
Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka has been overseeing the towering forward's progress, and has been intrigued with the trend.
"Nate had a strong season of growth and development," Chayka said of his 2017 draftee. "[Development coach] Mark Bell did a nice job refining his game and he's become an impactful junior player. We're excited about his growth; he puts in the work and has been rewarded by a steady incline in performance."
Schnarr registered eight goals in 24 playoff games for Guelph, including three in consecutive games during the championship round against the Ottawa 67's, finishing with a total of 19 postseason points to help the Storm capture their fourth J. Ross Robertson Cup.
"I've been asked to try and find the words to describe winning an OHL championship, and I still struggle to find them," he remarked. "It's something I've dreamed about forever, since I was a little kid watching OHL hockey, always wanting to raise that trophy. To help the Storm bring a championship to Guelph, it's really a surreal feeling, I still get shivers when I talk about it."
Many consider the Memorial Cup tournament as the pinnacle of junior hockey, and deservedly so. In that same regard, it is known to be one of the most difficult trophies in sports to win, involving champions from all three major CHL leagues - the WHL, QMJHL, and OHL.
Schnarr's storm will play the first of their three round-robin games on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Arizona time against the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
"Personally I'm just excited, it's been an amazing season so far but we still want to write a good ending to the year," he said of playing in the four-team final. "We all know we have work to do, we're riding kind of a little bit of a high coming off of the championship, but we know it's going to be a tough tournament. You can't take a game off, we've got to be ready to go, and with the team we have I think there's a lot of belief that we're able to do this. Now we have to go and prove it."
Performing, and more importantly, producing in a playoff setting bears a lot of weight when it comes to analyzing a player's development process, testing one's ability to shoulder pressure and responsibility.
Chayka has seen those qualities in the ever-improving forward and is looking forward to only seeing those vital aspects to his game continue to grow.
"Nate has a winning mindset and is a great teammate," Chayka exclaimed. "To experience the grind of a playoff run, and be rewarded with winning it all can only help his development. I'm excited to watch him compete at the Memorial Cup."
Following the tournament and after a couple of weeks to unwind away from the rink, Schnarr plans to move to Arizona for the summer to transition into what should be his first professional season.
"This summer is a big one for me, I'm planning on being in Arizona, to come down a week before development camp and get to work there," he said. "I'll be staying there for the rest of the summer and working out with the training staff. It's really exciting, but there's a lot of hard work to put in before my first pro season."
He's seen first-hand the steps other prospects in the organization have made to become every day players at the NHL level.
"I remember my first development camp, watching guys like Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer, and both are now big names in Arizona," he added. "I got to see how they handled themselves, how they acted like pros, how they worked, how they treated people, and I try to model after that."
Schnarr's words when addressing the future can both apply to the Memorial Cup tournament that's upon him and his next chapter with the Coyotes organization.
"I'm looking forward to it, and I welcome the challenge."