Schwartz, Olsen leave holes to fill even after World Juniors

The World Junior Championships wrap up Wednesday, which means the tournament’s collegians will return to their NCAA teams’ lineups in time for the resumption of league play this weekend.

Except for the two WCHA players on Canada’s roster: Colorado College’s Jaden Schwartz and Dylan Olsen of Minnesota-Duluth. The sophomore, Olsen, signed a professional contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and will join the club’s AHL team, Rockford, when the WJC is completed.

Schwartz, the WCHA’s top scorer (26 points in all games) and Canada forward broke his ankle in a preliminary game against the Czech Republic last Tuesday and early reports say CC won’t get Schwartz back until mid-February. There’s enough depth on the Canadian roster to fill in for Schwartz but the Tigers will have more of a challenge.

Schwartz was the leading scorer among Division I freshmen when he left for Canada’s pre-tournament camp after the Tigers swept St. Cloud State last month. CC is 2-2 since Schwartz left and the Tigers have scored five goals in three of those games. The question is how long that offensive output can hold up.

CC scored five goals on just 26 shots Dec. 18 against Nebraska-Omaha but three goals (and 11 shots) came on the power play. The Mavericks shut the Tigers out two days later when CC had only 24 shots and went 0 for 3 with two shots on the PP.

That weekend led me to believe CC didn’t have the offensive firepower to survive on even-strength sans Jaden Schwartz, but then the Tigers put five even-strength goals on the board against Michigan State in a game where everything seemed to go in for the first half of the game.

CC was nearly saved by the power play again in a 6-5 loss to Michigan the following night with four goals on the man advantage. With Schwartz out, the Tigers need seniors Stephen Schultz (3 goals, five assists in the last four games) and Tyler Johnson (3g, 4a) to continue to shine because the way it sounds, Schwartz will inactive when CC plays North Dakota (Jan. 29-30) and Denver (Feb. 4-5).

Without Olsen on the blue line for UMD, the Bulldogs will have to find another defenseman to get the offense going from the point. The sophomore from Calgary scored one goal with 12 assists, making him UMD’s second-highest scoring defenseman.

“You can’t hold grudges,” said UMD senior captain Mike Montgomery, who has five assists on the season. “Sometimes guys have to do what’s best for them and some guys aren’t cut out for school.

“It gives opportunities to guys who haven’t been given the opportunity to step up and fill the gaps. You can’t replace (Olsen) but you can try to fill his spot.”

Justin Faulk, who played for the United States at the World Juniors, leads the Bulldogs in points by a defenseman (6g, 9a) and will have to find a new defensive partner with Olsen off to the pros.

The Bulldogs still have nine defensemen after Olsen’s departure so there’s a lot to choose from.

Faulk paired with Trent Palm in the second game of the season and scored a goal with an assist. He paired with junior Scott Kishel after Olsen left for Canada’s pre-tournament camp in December. Palm, Kishel and senior Chad Huttel were consistently healthy scratched this season but have gotten playing time with Faulk and Olsen playing in Buffalo the past couple weeks.

Wade Bergman and Brady Lamb have spent most of the season together as a pair. Montgomery and Faluk are both righties who play mostly right D but Montgomery has filled in at left D six times so he could be a candidate to play opposite Faulk.