It’s been an interesting past few weeks for defenseman Jake McCabe. Not only was the 18-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, selected in the second round (44th overall) of the NHL Entry Draft by the Sabres, he also had a front row seat to one of the most compelling dramas of the offseason.
Standing six feet tall and 195 pounds, McCabe is coming off an impressive freshman season at the University of Wisconsin where he posted 12 points (3+9) in 26 games. One of his teammates and close friends on the team just happened to be fellow blueliner Justin Schultz – the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers, and the star of what simply became known in the social media world as the “Schultz Watch.”
Drafted by Anaheim in 2008, Schultz went unsigned by the Ducks during his four-year signing period. He became a free agent in late June after leaving Wisconsin following his junior season, quickly making him one of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents in recent memory.
WATCH FULL INTERVIEW WITH JAKE McCABE
McCabe was living with Schultz throughout the courting process, and couldn’t believe what was unfolding before his eyes.
“He was pretty calm about it. That’s just his demeanor; it’s how he goes about things every day. He wasn’t cocky at all, but he had all the right to be. Twenty-six teams were after him, not many guys get that opportunity when you’re going to sign an entry-level contract,” explains McCabe. “Teams were just asking ‘come to us, come to us.’ He talked to some really cool people - guys like Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey gave him a call. They were trying to pull all his limbs each and every way. He talked to his family, and he thinks that Edmonton will be a great fit for him.”
Schultz’s ultimate decision gained attention across North America, but especially up north in Canada where it was compared to how LeBron James chose to play with the Miami Heat last summer. McCabe said the negative publicity was unwarranted, especially as some media painted the picture of Schultz being nothing more than an attention-seeking diva who had yet to play a game in the NHL.
“That whole ‘Schultz Watch’ thing kind of got blown out of proportion. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t want publicity; he doesn’t want things to get that big. But it did, and he handled it well,” McCabe said. “People were questioning his character, which is kind of ridiculous since they don’t even know the kid. In my opinion, he’s a great guy.”
McCabe has no doubt that Schultz will have an immediate impact with the young Oilers, and looks forward to seeing him play at the NHL level.
“He’s such a competitor. At every practice he’s the hardest worker out there. He’s always pushing to be better in every aspect of his life. I played golf with him the other day and he shot a four-under-par 68. He’s a great ping pong player, bowler. You name it. He strives to be the best at everything.”
Development camp concludes on Thursday night with the Blue & Gold Scrimmage at First Niagara Center. Game time is 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 each for general admission seating, and can be purchased at the First Niagara Center box office or online at Tickets.com. Parking is available for the scrimmage for $4 in the First Niagara Center ramp and $2 in the surface lot.