On the surface, and to those outside the Sharks inner circle, Jed Ortmeyer’s signing last summer looked like a simple depth move. A willing to do anything forward, Ortmeyer had never scored more than five goals in an NHL season. On top of that he could only garner two NHL games the previous year, forcing him to spend virtually the entire year with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. That sounds more like a player who may not dress for games on a regular basis.
Fast forward several months and Ortmeyer’s signing may be one of the Sharks best this summer as his value to the team is immeasurable. Ortmeyer has seen time everywhere but the top line and his production has been the best of his career. To date, the Nebraska product has totaled seven goals and eight helpers in 54 games. He is pacing for double digit goals which would match his AHL total of a year ago. He already bested his career best of five goals.
The fit for Ortmeyer this year is a perfect blend of his talents and Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“It’s been a while since the coaches had confidence in me to (make a play and score),” said Ortmeyer. “It’s the combination of the coaches and the system. I think the system here is more upbeat and attacking. I have more of an idea what to expect from my linemates.”
The great part is that while Ortmeyer may not have been happy about last year’s assignment, he took the high road and was the better man for it.
“It was a tough, long year for me,” said Ortmeyer. “I could have approached it differently and made it a negative, but I used it as a positive to work on my game and play different roles. If I was (upset) and pouting and not taking advantage of the situation, I would probably still be in the minors.”
The American Hockey League is a great place for player development San Jose fans have learned over the years. Countless Sharks have cut their teeth in the AHL as they’ve prepared for life in the NHL. However, it can be difficult going the other way. Difficult, but still manageable if one has the right outlook.
“I was on the power play, the first and second lines, getting 15-20 minute a night and making plays,” said Ortmeyer. “I made the best of it and that helped boost my confidence. It’s paid off for me this season.”
“The NHL was taken away from him and the second time around, he knows how easy it is to lose,” said
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan.
As for his scoring success this year, there is a reason Ortmeyer is finding the back of the net.
“I love how many times he pushes the puck to the net,” said McLellan. “He’s passed 100 shots (103) and he’s not on the power play getting the puck a lot.”
McLellan doesn’t want the pattern to stop.
“We want him to shoot,” said McLellan. “He has a very good shot and we want him to put the puck to the net. His shooting ability is more than we thought we would get.”
Still, Ortmeyer’s game is built around his sandpaper like qualities and he is still at his best when he is banging bodies, forechecking and doing the underappreciated requirements of an NHLer.
“The other qualities are what got him here and are the most important,” said McLellan. “Penalty killing, blocking shots, battling in the corners. The little things that don’t show up in the stats column. You have to have those items to be successful as a team.”
What is amazing isn’t that Ortmeyer has capitalized on his skills, but that he has done so while fighting a difficult medical condition. Ortmeyer has a blood clotting disorder that has him, in conjunction with the
Sharks training staff, constantly monitoring his medication and diet. The symptoms first struck while attending the University of Michigan and then he had a major episode while playing for the New York Rangers.
“I had two blood clots in my lungs,” said Ortmeyer who will have to regulate medication for the rest of his life, but with few extra details required during the hockey season. “I felt sick and had chest pains and numbness in my arms. I started coughing up blood.”
That led to some major alterations in his life, but thankfully with everything regulated, he lives life fairly normally. Just like the assignment to Milwaukee, Ortmeyer finds the silver lining with the condition and realizes things could have been worse.
“There are changes in my life, things I can and can’t do,” said Ortmeyer. “I look at it as I’m pretty lucky to be alive and to be able to play hockey. Fortunately, I had the right doctors and the right medication.”
Heck, Ortmeyer has found one positive that most young hockey players would love to have doctors tell their parents.
“It was interesting having doctors tell me to stay away from leafy green vegetables,” said the man from a state known for their steaks. “It was fine by me at first, but after that first six months I was craving a salad. That was the first time in my life.”
Whether it’s teams passing on him this season because he had been reassigned to the AHL the season prior, or being overlooked for America’s youth national teams because he learned his skating skills in the non-traditional hockey state of Nebraska, Ortmeyer holds no grudges what hasn’t gone right for him. He is appreciative of his position and is popular with his team because of his outlook.
“I think his teammates enjoy being around him,” said McLellan.
Ortmeyer feels much the same way.
“I’m very happy here and hope they are happy with me,” said Ortmeyer.
The Sharks are still waiting to see if Dan Boyle
and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
will play against Detroit.
“Danny is going to be a game time decision. I thought (he might play) the last game,” said McLellan.
Vlasic is still in a wait and see time period as well.
“We’re still waiting,” said McLellan. “We’ll see if we get a better indicator tomorrow. We’re not ruling him out.”
On Friday night, between the Sharks contest with St. Louis and Nashville, Boyle will be flown up to Oxford, Ohio to be honored by his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio. Boyle’s trip has received the blessing of the Sharks organization.
“I think I’ll be there a total of six to eight hours,” said Boyle of the brief trip.
Boyle is enthusiastic about returning to where he was a college star.
“I haven’t been back in a long time and I haven’t seen the new rink,” said Boyle.
Among the college hockey people in the Sharks room, Boyle also has some bragging rights for now.
“It’s nice to see the program number one in the country,” said Boyle. “A San Jose pick from there (Tommy Wingels
) is the captain so I’ll say ‘hi’ to him.”
The Sharks Store located in HP Pavilion will be closed from Feb. 8-14 due to the SAP Open.
Winners from a recent PlayStation contest were down at Shark Ice on Monday and got to play video hockey games with the likes of Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe
and Jay Leach.
“Probably on the ice,” was winner Jon Starnes answer when asked if Setoguchi performed better in the game or in real life.
San Jose will face Detroit Tuesday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.