Schneider gets first taste of WHL experience with Blades

Photo Courtesy of Steve Hiscock/Saskatoon Blades Prince Albert’s Marek Schneider controls the puck during a pre-game warmup with the Saskatoon Blades last month.

Prince Albert Mintos defenceman Marek Schneider has had a pretty good idea of what life is like in the Western Hockey League over the last couple of years.

In addition to watching his older brother Braden develop on the blueline for the Brandon Wheat Kings over the last three seasons, the 17-year-old from Prince Albert has taken part in the last two training camps with the Saskatoon Blades after he was selected by them in the second round of the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.

The younger Schneider got an early birthday present on Jan. 25 as he was in the Blades lineup for the first time during a meeting with the Edmonton Oil Kings at the SaskTel Centre.

“It was unbelievable,” Schneider said. “It’s a really fast-paced game and it’s really hard-working hockey in the regular season.

“The coaches are a little harder on you compared to training camp and the pre-season for sure. When you get to that next level, it’s always tougher competition to play against.”

Schneider, who suited up in four more games for the Blades in a little over a week before he was reassigned back to the Mintos, was paired up with during his stint with 18-year-old Radek Kucerik, who was part of the Czech Republic’s team at the World Juniors.

“Radek was a great guy to play with, but we had to use a little more body language than usual to communicate with each other,” Schneider joked.

“Besides getting used to the pace in the WHL, I think the thing that stood out for me was the professionalism around the room. You come in every day around 8 a.m. to watch video and then you got out there and practice and do your off-ice workout. It was a pretty awesome experience.”

Going into a Friday night road game against the Saskatoon Blazers, Schneider had five assists in 32 contests in his sophomore campaign for the Mintos.

He also had the chance to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the Flin Flon Bombers during an Oct. 10 matchup against the host Humboldt Broncos.

“I think whenever one of our guys gets the chance to go away and have a little stint at a higher level and learn from their coaches, there’s always a lot that they can take back from that experience,” Mintos head coach Danton Danielson said.

“Marek’s been really strong for us this year, especially since he came back from an illness that kept him out of the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary over Christmas. It was good to see him get that opportunity with the Blades and it’s been great to see him contribute to our lineup all year.”

Schneider joins Turner McMillen (Kelowna Rockets), Chase Bertholet (Winnipeg Ice), Chase Friedt-Mohr (Spokane Chiefs) and Chase Pauls (Lethbridge Hurricanes) as Mintos’ players who have gotten brief stints in the WHL during the 2019-20 campaign.

Portland Winterhawks forward Gabe Klassen started the season with the Mintos before earning a full-time role with the U.S. Division club in November.