For the second straight season, defenseman Jeff Schultz held a mid-summer party in which a hockey trophy was toasted as a guest of honor.
This summer, that guest wasn’t the Stanley Cup – as it was in the summer of 2014 – but rather the Calder Cup, which he won as a member of the Manchester Monarchs.
“Yeah, I was fortunate again to have another party,” he said. “It was a great time. This time, it was just my close friends and stuff like that. We had a great time – had one day with it – and then sent it off to Jordan Weal the next day.”
The defensive-minded Schultz, who spent time in Los Angeles in addition to Manchester, posted three goals and 16 points in 52 regular season games for the Monarchs. But after three playoff series, he weathered a hard hit from Vancouver prospect Jake Virtanen in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Final as he retrieved a puck deep in the Manchester zone and didn’t return to action again in the series. Though the hit occurred in early June, Schultz wasn’t healthy again until “about the start of August,” he said.
“I went in and saw the Calgary Flames’ doctor, and had him run my shoulder through some tests, and he said that it feels strong, but just continue to keep doing my exercises and rehab and stuff like that. From that point, I was given the green light to kind of start contact and got things going on the ice,” said Schultz, a Calgary native who played junior hockey for the hometown Hitmen. “…And this was kind of my first shoulder injury, knock on wood. I wasn’t too familiar with how long they take, or what you can or can’t do, and I found even sleeping was the hardest thing to do.”
After recovering, he entered training camp in the heat of a battle for a roster spot.
“I saw what happened here at the end of the year with guys like Robyn retiring,” he said. “I knew it was a great opportunity to hopefully come in and earn a spot, and they have a lot of good young guys coming up, which I knew very well at training camp. I know what I learned down there helped me jump up back up to here.”
That jump back to a more regular NHL role avoided a potential road block as righthanded defenseman Jamie McBain was placed on waivers earlier today with the intention that he’d be assigned to AHL-Ontario in the absence of a waiver claim. It still remains to be seen whether the Kings will place a defenseman on injured reserve to start the season – both Jake Muzzin and Matt Greene suffered upper-body injuries on September 27, though Muzzin is expected to rejoin the lineup sooner – but Schultz and Derek Forbort, for now, appear poised to open the season in Los Angeles.
Knowing the club’s systems – Schultz was signed during the 2013 off-season and played an integral role in the 2014 second round series win over Anaheim – was an asset, as was his ability to serve on the penalty kill and eat up important defensive minutes.
“It’s been huge,” he said. “I’m very familiar with [the team], and then having to play with a guy like Christian, they’re kind of looking at me to help him out. I’m trying to do my best out there. Playing with him, each game we got more comfortable with each other.”
Schultz skated to the left of Christian Ehrhoff at today’s skate, as he did during Saturday’s 4-0 preseason win over Colorado in Las Vegas.
Regardless of who he skates with, Schultz, who topped out with three goals, 23 points and a plus-50 rating with Washington in 2009-10, understands his role and what this training camp meant.
“I think it was just coming into each game like it was my last. Give it my all,” he said of his camp push. “You never knew when that last opportunity would be, and I was just kind of looking not too far ahead.”