It's a moment Jaden Schwartz
has thought about ever since being forced to watch his Team Canada teammates from the sidelines after just two games of the 2011 World Junior Championship.
The fact he's earned a second chance at a roster spot for Canada at the 2012 WJC later this month in Edmonton and Calgary is something Schwartz doesn't take for granted.
"I feel lucky to be able to get a second chance," he told NHL.com.
Jaden Scwartz has earned a second chance on Team Canada's WJC team. (Courtesy: Tri-City Storm)
Schwartz had a goal and 2 assists while playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn
and Louis Leblanc
in the first two games last year, but it ended suddenly, however, 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.
As Schwartz hopped on the riser to address the media with the aid of crutches and a walking cast the following morning, you could see the disappointment on his face.
"I wanted to be here more than anything and my family wanted me here and especially my sister (Mandi Schwartz)," Schwartz said at the time. "It was a dream come true to make this team and to not be able to play in it is tough."
So when Schwartz got word he was one of 41 players invited to Canada's National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp from Dec. 10-14, he was ecstatic.
"I've been waiting for this camp ever since that tournament ended," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get another crack at it. I'm excited to finally 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 St. Louis Blues
in 2010, didn't seem too surprised when he learned that only three players from last year's team were invited to selection camp at the WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex in Calgary.
"That's kind of the intrigue of the tournament … you're always going to lose guys," Schwartz said. "This year there are three 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."
"I wanted to be here more than anything and my family wanted me here and especially my sister (Mandi Schwartz). It was a dream come true to make this team and to not be able to play in it is tough." -- Jaden Schwartz
The average height of the players headed to camp is 6-foot-0.5, and average weight is 192 pounds.
Schwartz is in his second year at Colorado College in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. This year, he's in a dead heat with his older brother, Rylan, for the team scoring lead with 17 points. Jaden actually leads the team with 12 assists while Rylan, a junior, has a team-best 13 goals.
He skates on a line with Rylan and Willie Rapuzzi.
"I think going through last year and being a second-year guy definitely helps," Jaden said. "You don't play that many games so each game is that more important. If you get swept, it drops you in the rankings so you learn each game means more. You already know the guys coming in during your second year so the expectations are higher."
In 42 career games, Jaden Schwartz
has 22 goals and 64 points for the Tigers.
Of course, 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. Last Friday, 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