The St. Louis sophomore is primed for a big 2013-14 campaign. Read on to find out why.
I generally advise poolies to avoid St. Louis forwards (or at least to tread carefully on draft day). Why? Well, for one, the Blues have a number of top six forwards – definitely more than six. And because of this depth, it is tough to project who will receive the prime offensive minutes on any given night. And for two, Ken Hitchcock teams are generally not among the league leaders in offensive production
However, I think Schwartz is primed for a big offensive breakout this season.
Reason #1 – Opportunity
Schwartz averaged 16 seconds of power play ice time per game in 2013 (45 regular season games). The top two left wingers in St. Louis last season – Andy McDonald and David Perron – averaged 2:31 and 2:28 per game, respectively. And neither of them will be ahead of Schwartz this season on the depth chart. McDonald has retired, and Perron was traded to St. Louis for Magnus Paajarvi, who projects as an elite checking/two-way winger.
Additionally, Schwartz ranked 10th on the Blues in total ice time per game last year, averaging 12:28 per contest. Expect both of these numbers (PP ice time and total ice time) to increase dramatically this season. And more ice time doesn't always preclude better offensive numbers, but it sure doesn't hurt.
Schwartz also ranked fifth on the Blues last season in per-minute even strength offensive production. An even more impressively, he was second only to Chris Stewart in per-minute goal production (0.802 goals per 60 minutes of even strength ice time). He definitely made the most of his limited offensive opportunities, and that is about all you can ask of a rookie forward.
Reason #2 – He's ready for tough minutes
Schwartz didn't have his hand held much last season, even as a rookie. He played the eighth toughest minutes of any Blues forward (he's not out there checking the Getzlafs and Perrys of the West yet, though), and he was only sixth among Blues forwards with the highest ratio of offensive zone starts (at 51.3%, while fellow rookie Vladimir Tarasenko was close to 70%).
Hitchcock expects his top line to be able to play agains