It’s not always easy being a bona fide NHL prospect.
It’s not easy when you have chosen the NCAA route over the junior route, reducing your options to the all-or-nothing proposition of staying in school or turning pro.
It’s not easy when your best friend and defense partner in college was drafted in your same class by the same NHL team -then traded two years later, prohibiting you from continuing your journey together side-by-side into the pro ranks.
This was the scenario facing Ducks prospect Justin Schultz, who had to watch from the University of Wisconsin, Madison while Jake Gardiner was traded from Anaheim to Toronto, then signed an entry-level contract this year.
While Schultz was named one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists, Gardiner went on to impress observers during a 10-game stint with the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate at the end of the season.
For Schultz, staying in school might not have been an easy choice. But it’s choice, and he’s sticking to it.
“Yeah, I think definitely I believe I could do it if I wanted,” he said of turning pro. “But I really feel like I want to play in the AHL next year and get ready so I can make the jump right to the big club.”