|Cole Schneider's scoring prowess attracted the attention of the Senators, who signed him as a college free agent in March (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
Offence got him noticed, as is often the way with an emerging young hockey talent.
But Cole Schneider knows it's his play at the other end of the ice that could make or break his chance of making a big impression with the Ottawa Senators someday.
When the Senators inked Schneider — a two-year standout with the Connecticut Huskies — to a two-year entry level contract as a college free agent, he came to the organization billed as a player with a nose for the net. The numbers bore that out, with Schneider's 78 points over a pair of campaigns at Connecticut being the highest ever recorded by a sophomore in school history in NCAA Division I play.
Schneider posted 23 goals and 45 points in his sophomore season — both school records — and that went a long way toward making him just the third UConn product to sign a National Hockey League contract.
"We saw him night after night at UConn and he was the best player there," Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray said after inking Schneider on March 14. "We just like his skill set and we think he brings an offensive dimension to our team down the road ... We had our guys identify him early in the year and we followed up on him a couple of times in the last couple of months (of his season). We watched him play a lot and we just liked what we saw."
Shortly after signing on the dotted line in Ottawa, Schneider made his professional debut with the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators. But while offence was his calling card, the 21-year-old native of Williamsville, N.Y., headed down to the farm with a different mindset.
"I'm more of an offensive player," said Schneider, a 6-2, 185-pound power forward. "But when I got there, I didn’t want to not play defence. So I kind of played a lot more defensively when I got up to Binghamton."
Schneider, who recorded two assists in 11 games with the B-Sens, also quickly noticed a visible jump in the intensity of the game at the AHL level.
"It was a lot different, a lot faster, a lot stronger I guess," he said. "It’s not that I can’t handle it, but you’ve just got to get used to (the pace)."
Skating is an area the Senators have identified that needs improvement.
"They just said they wanted me to work on my skating and become a better skater," Schneider said when asked what the organization has told him to improve in Binghamton.
After playing two seasons of Junior A in the North American Hockey League with the Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Phantoms and Topeka (Kan.) RoadRunners — he notched 25 goals in 29 games with the latter in the 2009-10 season — Schneider matriculated to Storrs, Conn., and the Huskies, where his game grew to the point that he began to attract attention from NHL scouts during his sophomore year. After sifting through several offers, Schneider chose to sign on with the Senators, who have a well-earned reputation of being able to attract college free agents.
"My agent said that the staff around here was really good and thought this was the best fit for me," said Schneider, who agreed to terms with the Senators after UConn's season ended with a 4-3 loss to Air Force in the third and deciding game of their Atlantic Hockey Association quarter-final (he picked up six points in the series).
After taking part in the Senators' annual summer development camp earlier this month, Schneider is working toward full-time duty with the B-Sens this fall.
"I'm going to get right back in the gym right away, get on the ice and get stronger," said Schneider of a process that began to build at UConn. "(Playing in college) definitely made me a lot stronger and it gave me a little bit more experience … I’m a little bit older now, so that (experience) was good for me."