Nate Schmidt is very self-aware. He knows that his boisterous personality can be a lot for some people to handle.
“I hope the guys aren’t too sensitive about me being too loud and goofy sometimes in the locker room,” said Schmidt after the Vancouver Canucks acquired him in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. “I guess that’s what I’m most afraid of.”
That’s why he’s taking a slower approach to introducing his full self to his new teammates. Schmidt has described himself as “lovable” and “goofy” and he’s quick with a smile and a laugh, even in the awkward Zoom call format of the press conferences with the media. If he’s worried about being too much for his new teammates to handle, it helps that he has a pair of former Washington Capitals teammates in the locker room with him in Braden Holtby and Jay Beagle.
“Having Holts and Beags here was an awesome start for me, because they kind of know the true real Schmidtty,” he said with a laugh, looking over at Holtby. “Sometimes, I gotta make sure I give it to the guys in doses, I don't know how much they can handle at first. I didn't know how much to bark and yell today because I don't want guys to get overwhelmed.”
There’s another benefit to Holtby and Beagle already being in Vancouver before Schmidt arrived: they could let their Canucks teammates know what was coming.
“I think I’ve warned enough guys,” said Holtby with a smile. “No, it’s been awesome. I think he showed his energy already. I think it’s a positive energy and it’s going to be infectious to this group.”
“Aw, thanks man,” said Schmidt.
Holtby’s assessment seemed accurate: Schmidt made a great first impression on his teammates — “He’s a really nice guy,” said Quinn Hughes — but also his new head coach, Travis Green.
“He’s got a lot of positive energy — we like that in players,” said Green. “We want players that just love playing the game. It seems like you would put him in that category where there's not a bad day at the rink. That's important because you're playing a lot of hockey, you've got to have positive energy.”
Schmidt’s first day of training camp wasn’t all smooth sailing. He acquitted himself well in the bag skate that has become customary at a Travis Green training camp, but came close to ruining someone else’s day.
“We were doing some laps and I didn't know guys would stop!” said Schmidt with a laugh. “I almost blew somebody up on the first turn around.”
The second day of training camp went even better for Schmidt.
Perhaps he was feeling a little more comfortable on the ice; he was certainly louder. In a mid-practice scrimmage between the two practice groups, Schmidt let out a couple of his signature “woop” cries on one breakout, letting Elias Pettersson know that he was open. A moment later, Schmidt sent Brock Boeser in on a breakaway with a neat backhand pass and Boeser made no mistake.
Horvat vs Pettersson line.— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) January 5, 2021
You get a “WHOOP, WHOOP” from Schmidt and a breakaway goal from Boeser. pic.twitter.com/NmBPU1xlZX
"He's such a great guy and he's a really good hockey player," said Boeser. "He sees the ice well and works hard, so he's gonna be huge for our team this year."
If early returns at training camp are any indication, Schmidt will fit in nicely on the ice. His tendency to join the rush and support his forwards will mesh nicely with the top line of Pettersson, Boeser, and J.T. Miller, who are dangerous off the rush.
"I think having a guy like Schmidtty, the way he skates and the way he sees the ice, it's like having another forward out there," said Miller. "There's a lot of movement, a lot of skill, and I think when we get that higher urgency and high compete and our legs are working, I think it just adds another threat."
"I played against Schmidtty a long time, I didn't realize how skilled he really was," Miller added.
Schmidt’s mobility and puck-moving ability could be a game-changer for the Canucks, who struggled on breakouts against his former team, the Golden Knights, in the playoffs. Apart from Hughes, the Canucks defence couldn’t always move or skate the puck out of danger quickly enough.
“For me, being able to jump in the play and be that second wave is a really important part of our game,” said Schmidt. “It’s part of our system here, getting our defencemen up in the rush.”
Yes, fitting in on the ice should come quickly. Fitting in off the ice? Maybe that will take a little longer, but he should fit in just fine and provide an element of joy and positivity to the room, even if it has to come one small dose at a time.