Gophers Journey to Vancouver

Patrick White never expected his teammate and friend Jordan Schroeder to be drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, the same team that drafted him in 2007. And he was so sure that he was willing to bet on it.

As White and his family were huddled around their television set watching the NHL Entry Draft festivities last month, they decided to put down some wagers on where Schroeder would end up. White guessed 15th, his father guessed some time before 15th, his girlfriend guessed 19th, and his mother guessed 20th.

As it turns out, Schroeder went 22nd overall to the Canucks. Apparently mothers know best.

“I was actually really surprised; I had no idea that he would still be on the board,” said White, who spent upwards of 15 minutes talking to the media Tuesday at General Motors Place. “We were all just ecstatic when he got picked by Vancouver. He’s a great hockey player. It’s exciting. It’s exciting for Vancouver to have him in the system. I’m telling you, that’s good for Vancouver. I’m telling you that right now.”

That makes three Minnesota Gophers, and Minnesota natives, who now belong to the Canucks. In addition to White and Schroeder, Taylor Matson is the third Canucks prospect who plays for the Gophers. Matson, who only played 13 games last season before suffering a year-ending knee injury, was Vancouver’s 7th selection in the 2007 draft.

“We all live down at the University of Minnesota and we’ve been working out together,” said White, whose working out seems to have paid off as the big center is now weighing in at 195 pounds. “When Jordan was drafted, Taylor and I were both pumped.”

So was Schroeder, who is currently in Vancouver for the first time for the Canucks’ annual prospects conditioning camp.

“It was beautiful flying in; It’s a great city and I love it here,” said Schroeder, whose father paid for the trip. “It’s definitely pretty cool seeing how nuts the fans are and all the media and everything. I couldn’t be happier to be in Vancouver.”

The Gopher trio traveled together to Vancouver but weren’t able to sit next to one another on the plane. And although White and Matson were admittedly a little bitter towards Schroeder because he had the better seat on the plane, they’re all happy to be going through this week side by side.

“We get to go through the same things. It’s just nice to have two other guys that I can rely upon and just talk to about Vancouver stuff,” said White.

“I think it definitely helps being comfortable with those guys around me,” added Schroeder, who expects to play another year or two in Minnesota before turning pro. “You know just having someone to really talk to and go through this experience with. It’s definitely good to have them here.”

It may not have been a typical road trip for three college guys, but Schroeder, White, and Matson came to Vancouver this week still looking to get their game on.

Unfortunately, “game” isn’t what this week’s Vancouver Canucks prospects conditioning camp is all about.

“There are no competitive drills whatsoever,” said Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis. “It’s more about educating and bringing them into a group and letting them meet and understand that we’re here for them.”

In other words, it’s essentially a week where the prospects are put through numerous on-ice training sessions, dryland workouts, classroom sessions, and the dreaded Grouse Grind. White, who also attended prospects camp last year, can speak from experience.

“I think it’s a little bit easier being here once already,” said White. “I was definitely a little bit nervous last year coming up, a lot of the guys were older but now I feel like I’m an older guy around here.

“I can definitely see it in some other guys’ eyes that they’re not really sure what’s going to happen. Guys are asking, ‘what’s the grouse grind, what’s this, what’s that, how hard are the workouts?’ Already having been there definitely helps. It’s hard, but it’s fun at the same time.”

White says he gave Schroeder and Matson a heads-up on what to expect, but nothing in detail because he was confident “they [could] both handle themselves.”

And so far, he was right.

“He’s a very mature young guy. He’s come in here and shown leadership qualities already,” said Gillis when asked about Schroeder. “He’s extremely well prepared and extremely competitive. Jordan is a very talented young guy and we expect him to do well.”

On the other hand, when asked about White, Gillis said that he’s “not particularly” pleased with his development over the past few seasons with the University of Minnesota.

White acknowledged that he wasn’t able to reach the goals that he set for himself the past two seasons with Minnesota, but is ready to work to improve.

“When the time comes next year to start playing again, it’s on me, it’s not on anyone else. It’s not who helped me train or who did anything for me, it’s just on me to make things happen and set my future for myself,” said White, who keeps in constant contact with Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner throughout the season.

One thing White has learned from his conversations with Gagner is that he needs to work on his consistency.

“It all comes together with even just working hard in warm-ups and preparing yourself for that one moment. You may only get one chance or one shot on your first shift but if you get that shot on your first shift, you better be ready for it.”

And next year, White intends to be.

“I expect to be one of our better players. They want to see more production out of me and I think that I’m going to be able to do that.”

Although White and Schroeder are the highest draft picks at prospects camp this week (until Cody Hodgson arrives on Wednesday), that’s not something they think about.

“I’m just like everyone else here, the draft pick is just a number,” said Schroeder. “It’s what you do after that really counts. I just have to work hard and be at my best.”

“That’s really something I try not to worry about. Some guy that was drafted in the fifth round could have scored 20 more goals than me last year in college hockey,” said White. “At this point, I don’t think where I was drafted puts any pressure on me. Most of my goals for myself are to reach the final destination of playing in the NHL, and I just need to do everything I possibly can to get there.”

There’s a long road ahead for Patrick White, but by all indications, he’s ready for the drive. As for Jordan Schroeder, let’s just say it won’t be long before the Gopher trio becomes the Gopher duo.


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