For Nate Schnarr, his time with the New Jersey Devils all started with a missed phone call from his old boss.
"I saw that I had a missed call from (Arizona Coyotes GM) John Chayka," said the 20-year-old, who was born and grew up in Ontario city of Waterloo, "on the second (call) he thanked me for my time with Coyotes organization and said that I had been traded to the New Jersey Devils."
For a player whose junior and fledgling pro career was already something of a whirlwind, being dealt to the New Jersey Devils organization as part of the trade that sent Taylor Hall to Arizona was a bit of a shock.
It didn't take long for Schnarr to realize that it was also a new opportunity.
"I think after the initial shock that was my first reaction," said Schnarr, "my second reaction was to realize that this is a really good opportunity to have more of an impact, a good impact with the New Jersey Devils organization."
Schnarr is something of a late bloomer. He failed to stick full-time with his junior club, the Guelph Storm, as a 16-year-old, the age when most elite prospects play their rookie season. No bother. Schnarr came back as a 17-year-old and scored 18 goals and had 18 assists, earning himself a roster spot on Team Canada at the 2017 U18 World Championship.
His selection by the Coyotes (3rd round, 75th overall) followed. But Schnarr had to have shoulder surgery that summer and he was not completely comfortable during his second season with the Storm, though his coach, George Burnett, liked what he saw.
"He was like a sponge with new information," said Burnett, a veteran Canadian major junior coach, who was also been a head coach at the NHL and American Hockey League level. "He came back and did the work he needed to do to become a better player. Eventually, he became a huge contributor for us on a championship team."
Burnett is referring to the Storm's run to the Ontario Hockey League title last spring. Schnarr was his club's leading scorer (34G, 68A) in the regular season, notching more points than his previous two seasons combined.
All championship seasons are memorable but the Storm's run was especially so. The club overcame a 3-0 games deficit against perennial powers, the London Knights, escaped a 3-1 hole while facing the Saginaw Spirit and then climbed out of a 2-0 hole against the Ottawa 67's in the championship series.
The 67's, of course, had Devils draftee Mitchell Hoelscher in their lineup, along with Kevin Bahl, Graeme Clarke and Nikita Okhotyuk, all of whom would become New Jersey property over the ensuing months.
"It was unbelievable," said Schnarr, still sounding amazed at the memory months later, "Something I will remember forever to be able to (share) it with all my teammates."
Burnett has fond memories as well:
"He had a monster year for us in a championship season," said Burnett, "102 points and they were all legit, there was some powerplay time in there but most of it was (even-strength) playing on our kind-of second line, as a top-six forward."
A big, rangy center, the 6'3", 185-pound Schnarr has continued to work. He relocated to Arizona not long after the Storm's win to be nearer the Coyotes development staff. Having already put in hard hours to rehab his shoulder and get on the radar of pro scouts, the time required to climb the ladder of his new organization could be just a natural progression.
"For Nate, I think it's still early," explained Burnett, in reference to Schnarr playing just three seasons of major junior hockey with one of those years being compromised with having had surgery. "He'll do well with some quality time in the American Hockey League. A lot of our guys from (the OHL championship team) are finding that…it's not easy at first but it's the (right) way to develop as a pro."
Former NHL defenseman Darren Rumble, who was the head coach of Canada's U18 team the year Schnarr competed, offered this assessment:
"He's tall, and can play a 200-foot game," said Rumble. "He could become a good 3rd liner as a pro…he's a good kid with a nice family."
The last word goes the kid, who is now a man.
"To get to the next level is going to take time," said Schnarr, "but I'm going to make sure that no one will work harder to get there. And work even harder to stay there."