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Young Stars Classic: Flames’ Schwindt Could Surprise After Trade

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Cole Schwindt wasn’t the headliner of the blockbuster Matthew Tkachuk trade this summer. That label rests with new Calgary Flames star Jonathan Huberdeau. MacKenzie Weegar is the close second.

For some, there might even be some debate over the ranking of prospect Cole Schwindt and the future first-round draft selection that were also obtained from the deal with the Florida Panthers.

That makes Schwindt a player to watch at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, B.C. And while he wasn’t a headline in a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks kids on opening night of the prospect tourney either, there is a lot to like about his maturity and his abilities.

The top line of Schwindt, Walker Duehr and Jakob Pelletier were outmatched by their counterparts at times in a close game that was blown open in the third period.

As their first game in the four-team rookie camp tournament, you can’t put too much stock in the results. But it was clear from the assistant captain letter on his chest and his spot alongside Pelletier and Duehr that Schwindt is expected to be a leader among the prospects.

The 6-foot-2 centre is a rare right shot, which means there’s a possibility he could be converted to the wing during main camp. Or if he makes more of an impression in Penticton, he may battle for the fourth-line centre role with the veterans.

It’s likely his graduation to the NHL will wait for his strength to match the requirements of the pivot position. His three games with the Florida Panthers last season made a huge impact on his mentality.

“Being up there for the short period of time that I was opened my eyes big-time,” Schwindt told Flames TV on Friday.

“I know now hockey is what I want to do for a job. And what I want to do for the rest of my life. Getting a taste of it, getting to go up there and play with those guys and see what they do on a day-to-day basis. How they take care of their body, how they play the game. It kind of gives me an insight to what I need to do to better myself.

“I definitely took that back to Charlotte and tried to implement it in my game.”

Schwindt lost an entire OHL season during the pandemic but the former Mississauga Steelheads star got a taste of the pros with 10 games with the AHL Syracuse Crunch in 2020-21.

With the Checkers last year, Schwindt scored 19 goals and 40 points in 72 games.

The Calgary Flames said after the trade that Schwindt was an important piece of the package. The significance of what transpired isn’t lost on the 21-year-old.

“Those two players are unbelievable and they’re the centrepieces of the trade. No better feeling than to come over with them and kind of share this moment with them. And be etched in history with a blockbuster trade such as that,” he said with some thought.

“For me there’s still a ton of work that needs be done until I can say I’m a major piece of this trade. It’s an exciting time for me and one I won’t forget.”

The work includes — in his words — getting bigger, faster and stronger. He called himself a skinny kid. But he added that he put some pounds on this summer.

He knows what the next level looks like now.

“Everything’s so fast. There’s very few mistakes,” the Calgary Flames hopeful said of the NHL game. “It starts in practice. Getting to practice with (the Panthers) one day there was unbelievable. Just kind of seeing the way that everyone carries themselves. And how much fun they have together while they’re doing their job. It kind of enticed me to get there.”

His next chance to impress comes tonight at 8:30 p.m.

You can watch on the Calgary Flames website.

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