He was a guy that really had an attitude of competing hard. What he did was come into camp and impress. Because of that, we felt that he was a player that we wanted in our organization and are excited to have in our organization. - Brad Pascall
CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames opted not to select a goaltender at the 2015 NHL Draft.
It turns out, they didn’t need to.
Seven rounds came and went at last June’s draft without goalie Nick Schneider – ranked ninth among North American goalies by Central Scouting – hearing his named called.
Undrafted but undeterred, the Medicine Hat Tigers netminder earned an unexpected and much-welcomed invite to join the Flames’ top prospects at the annual Young Stars Classic in Penticton.
It’s funny how things work out for the best.
"Honestly, I was told I was coming in for a good experience and to have fun with it," said Schneider, following his 25-save winning relief appearance over the Calgary Hitmen on Dec. 19. "Obviously, being competitive you want to do more than that. It was kind of weird, because guys started getting hurt and I was able to stick around."
Outperforming expectations, a day at camp turned into two, which then turned into a week.
The team’s established stars began showing up and the boy at Flames camp was still between the pipes turning aside pucks.
Nobody from the Flames was telling the kid to go home.
"It was definitely a great experience," Schneider said. "It’s what every hockey playing kid dreams about. To have guys like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan shooting on me was pretty incredible."
Without question, the unheralded Schneider turned out to be the feel good story of camp, evolving from a free agent fill-in to a signed NHL prospect.
The Flames inked the 18-year-old right-catching puckstopper to an entry-level deal on Sept. 23.
To put the signing into perspective, of the two dozen goaltenders selected at the draft, only Luke Opilka – a fifth round pick of the St. Louis Blues – has put his John Hancock to an NHL contract.
"My agent let me know there had been some discussions about a deal, but then I didn’t hear anything for a few days," recalled Schneider. "It wasn’t until I got off the ice on my final day at camp that my agent called to tell me a deal had been worked out."
It was the youngster’s work ethic and attitude that won over the Flames brass, according to Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall.
"He was a guy that really had an attitude of competing hard. What he did was come into camp and impress,” Pascall said. “Because of that, we felt that he was a player that we wanted in our organization and are excited to have in our organization."
As impressive as Schneider’s performance was at camp, unfortunately the same can’t be said this season for his Tigers, who are presently on the outside looking in at a playoff spot for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign.
Despite his team’s woes, Schneider was nominated last week by the Western Hockey League for the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week award after posting a record of 2-1 with a 1.18 GAA and a .958 save percentage.
"It’s been a great learning experience," Schneider said. "I had (Austin) Lotz come in and now Mack (Shields), so it’s been nice to see how those guys work on and off the ice. We got off to tough start to the year, but having veteran guys come in to share the workload has given me an opportunity to work on things and to get better results."
In 66 games over three-plus seasons in the WHL, Schneider has built an overall record of 30-22-2-2 with a 3.00 GAA and .895 save percentage.
At 6-foot-2 and 176-pounds, the Leduc, AB native admitted he’ll need to pack on some pounds to sustain the wear and tear of pro hockey.
"I’m a pretty lanky guy so now it’s about putting some weight on," Schneider said. "I talk to (Flames development coach) Ron Sutter and the goalie coaches quite frequently, and for me it’s all about becoming heavier."
For now, Schneider is content on being a Flames fan while concentrating on developing his game in Medicine Hat.
"I definitely follow the Flames," Schneider said. "If their games are on TV I will definitely check them out and watch. It’s neat to watch guys that I shared the net with, like (Karri) Ramo and (Jonas) Hiller, and all the guys that shot on me. To be honest, it’s still so surreal."