American center Jordan Schroeder celebrated his inaugural Father’s Day this weekend, capping off a year of firsts for the Minnesota native. In his debut KHL season, Schroeder topped the pack at Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod—logging 41 points (19+22) in 60 games played.

Selected 22nd overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Schroeder entered the Canucks organization as a record-setter on the international stage. At the 2009 World Junior Championships, he set a U.S. record for most assists in the tournament (15), despite being the youngest member of the roster. Schroeder logged 165 career appearances in the NHL before arriving in Nizhny Novgorod this season, a squad coached by fellow NHL alum David Nemirovsky. 

Schroeder will suit up for Jokerit Helsinki later this year, where he joins fellow American import and top-producer Brian O’Neill in the Finnish capital. We caught up on all of the above from Minnesota, where Schroeder is spending time with his extended family and newborn son, Caden.

Gillian Kemmerer (GK): Congratulations on your first Father’s Day! Have you found that any lessons you’ve learned on the ice are applicable to parenting? 

Jordan Schroeder (JS): Yeah, thank you. It was fun, pretty surreal. You grow up and have so many Father's Days with your dad, and now to be on the opposite side of things, its been pretty cool. Like hockey, it requires a lot of patience sometimes, hard work, lack of sleep. [Laughs] But no, he's been a pretty good sleeper so far, so its been pretty easy.

GK: Your wife Gabrielle must be superwoman—pregnant for the whole season while adjusting to a new country! 

JS: We had just found out that she was pregnant, right when I left. It worked out because I was able to get home after the season and be there for the birth. It was good timing on our part, I guess! Gabrielle came over [to Russia] in early October, and she was there until early February.

GK: In terms of your own adjustment to Nizhny Novgorod, I cannot think of a better guide than [Torpedo head coach] Dave Nemirovsky. He spent over a decade a piece in North American and Russian hockey. 

JS: He's Canadian and Russian, and he's played in the NHL. He’s been around. He understands the differences, and obviously speaking perfect English helps. It was an easy transition for me from that standpoint. He was a great coach and I was glad to have him for the year that I did. We talked a little bit before signing, and he made the transition seem easier than you hear sometimes. Having him as a coach, I think it made me more comfortable going over there. Not knowing really any Russian at the time, that could have been a little more difficult. I think you pick up on some words here and there, and I know teams have translators and guys always help out. I would've made it work either way.

GK: It is hard to describe Nemirovsky as an “import coach” in light of his Russian descent, but he was born in Toronto. Did you find that he resorted to North American schools of thought more often in terms of strategy? 

JS: Yes. I mean, he definitely wanted to play a fast-paced game and hard on the forecheck. I think that relates more to the NHL style of today's game. You see some teams [in Russia] that will sit back and trap a lot, and I think that's more suited to the Olympic sheet and the bigger ice. Now that the rinks are going back to NHL or Finnish size, I believe for next year, you could definitely see some changes in style and the way coaches execute a game plan.

GK: Torpedo showed impressive creativity up-front, but the most common criticism was leveled at your own-zone play. Do you think that is a fair critique of your mid-season struggles? 

JS: I think sometimes on the defensive side, in our own end, that's where we struggled the most. I don't think we ever really had an issue putting up goals. There were spurts when we played solidly in our own end, and showed that we could be successful and limit chances and turnovers and stuff like that. So yeah, definitely, that was probably the weaker part as a team—but I think we made up for it with our creativity and offense.

GK: You did not seem to have much of a learning curve. Nemirovsky also praised your first season in the K. 

JS: It was a pretty easy transition. Getting used to the Olympic sheet again was a little bit of an adjustment, but I played at the University of Minnesota on the larger ice surface. You get used to it pretty quickly.

GK: CSKA was the Achilles heel for most teams in the KHL, but Torpedo grew stronger against them as the year progressed. What changed? 

JS: The first few games [of the season], you hear that they're obviously a great hockey team and they have great players. I feel like we had a younger squad and were therefore a little intimidated by them. As a team, you're like, "Ah, we're not going to win this one."

That first game in the playoffs, maybe we played like we didn't belong out there, but as the series went on—the second, third, fourth games—we started to get comfortable. We realized that if we played the way we can play and not think, just go and play hard, they were beatable. Obviously they beat us in four and are a great club, and I'm sure they would have gone a long way. But I definitely think intimidation was the reason why we started off slower, and then went to a couple of overtime games and got better and better as the series went on. 

GK: There were insinuations that you could come back to North America after one season in the KHL. Why did you opt to remain in Europe? 

JS: I liked it over there, and then the opportunity at Jokerit came up. I had heard great things about the organization and the way they run things. I never really talked to anyone back here about going back [to the NHL]. I would get friends and family that would ask, "Would you come back?" And I was like, "I don't know, probably not." I didn't really have an opinion on it at the time. I thought I'd stay over [in Russia] and we'd like it—so far, its been good.

GK: I chatted with fellow American Brian O’Neill earlier in the season, who the Finns have crowned “Mr. Helsinki.” Will you challenge for that title? 

JS: [Laughs] No, no, that's all his! I recently got together with [O’Neill] down in Florida because he lives there in the off season too. I felt like getting to know someone who has been there a little while, another American, would be good for me—and I have. He's a great guy and yeah, “Mr. Helsinki” is all his.

GK: I’m a Philadelphia-area native like Brian, so I can’t help but respect that Jokerit chose the Rocky Theme as their goal song. 

JS: Absolutely—he said he loves it there and he loves the city. We're really looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to it.

GK: How have you been preparing for training camp in light of quarantine? 

JS: Personally, it was difficult. With my wife being pregnant and then having a new baby, we were very quarantined. We did not really leave the house aside from getting groceries, basically. I ended up jumping on the bandwagon and ordering a Peloton bike. That was probably one of the best decisions I've made, and my wife and I both love it. I did those workouts at home and just tried to find things around the house or do bodyweight stuff to stay in shape. Then things slowly opened up. We have a community gym that I would use within our development in Florida.

Now that we're back in Minnesota, I'm doing some skates with skills coaches and skating coaches in small groups, four or five guys at a time. We are still very cautious on that end, but it's good to get back into skating and stuff to prepare for the season. As far as Helsinki goes, we are planning on going over there normally and I think training camp begins July 20th or something like that. Things are still maybe up in the air a little bit, but we are planning to start on time.

GK: North American fans often wonder how the KHL stacks up on the competitiveness front. How would you characterize it? 

JS: I think the skill level is awesome in the KHL. There are so many hockey players that have NHL-level skill and everything. Obviously, I think everyone's goal and dream in hockey is to make it to the NHL. It's the best league in the world, and the best players all want to be there. I was fortunate enough to play as many games as I did. Being up and down [to the AHL], it was a grind at times. But the KHL is not far behind in skill level, if not just as skilled as the NHL. It is a little bit different of a game, but I mean, overall it's a great league.

GK: What first ignited your passion for hockey?

JS: Well, it's weird because no one in my family ever played hockey before. My dad grew up playing baseball, football and basketball. He lived in a smaller town in Minnesota, so they didn't really have hockey. When we moved up to the Twin Cities area, it was the neighborhood kids that got me into it. I saw them out playing street hockey, and I guess I just wanted to try it. I loved it and never really looked back.

GK: Did you grow up playing other sports like your dad? At what point did you specialize? 

JS: We had an awesome neighborhood where I grew up. Me and my brother especially, we played everything. We played hockey, we played basketball, we played baseball, we played football. We golfed, skateboarded, rollerbladed, biked, you name it. We did it all. Growing up, that gave us our athletic ability, and then as we got older, we weeded out some of the sports. I wound up playing baseball, golf and hockey. I played year-round as a kid, up until about eighth or ninth grade in high school. That’s when hockey turned into my main priority.

GK: So many hockey players are fabulous golfers. How much of that boils down to transference of skill, versus good timing with the off-season?

JS: I think it’s a bit of both. A shot simulates the hip movements and everything with golf. And, obviously, the timing of seasons plays a part. It’s nice weather in the off-season and you want to be outside playing a sport—most hockey guys are competitive. It's kind of funny because most hockey guys I know are really good golfers. I think the sports go hand-in-hand with hand-eye coordination, a stick to a puck and the club to a ball. I love it.

GK: I am looking at your WhatsApp photo right now, and you are holding the most enormous fish. When did you pick up fishing as a hobby?

JS: My dad's a big reason why I grew up fishing. He's a big outdoorsman. He loves to fish and hunt and everything. We did that growing up as kids, and I've always loved to get out on the water. We have a cabin up in Northern Minnesota now with a great fishing lake. We can catch muskies, walleyes, pike, pretty much any freshwater fish that exists. I love being out there with nature, and it's just beautiful scenery.

GK: What's the biggest fish you ever caught? 

JS: The biggest freshwater fish I've caught is a musky—it’s like a northern pike, but bigger. That was 51.5" long. I don't know the exact weight.

GK: Basically the size of a small child! 

JS: And then, this summer or this off-season, I went out with [KHL alum] Ryan Stoa and did tarpon fishing. That's a whole different ball game, when you get into the ocean with the size of the fish and everything. That was probably my biggest fish caught this year.

GK: This is the second time in two weeks that Stoa’s fishing exploits have come up in an interview. What’s on your entertainment queue during KHL road trips?

JS: Mainly podcasts or TV shows or movies. As far as podcasts go, I listen to Spittin’ Chiclets. I also listen to some fishing ones because I love to fish—Back Lash Podcast is pretty good. On Netflix, we’re always watching Billions. Suits was good, Ozark…

GK: I always find it bittersweet that the KHL encompasses so many interesting places, but players rarely get to explore them. In China, most teams don’t even change time zones. Did you have a favorite road city?

JS: I thought Helsinki was really cool. I had actually gone there for the World Championships in 2016. We did a training camp there, but I didn't really know where to go or venture out. This year when I went, Chay Genoway had played there, so he showed us where to go. It was cool to see the city with someone who has lived there.

GK: He took you to the sauna, didn’t he?

JS: [Laughs] Yeah, he did!

GK: You have to get into that—it’s a Jokerit requirement.

JS: Oh, we love it! We have one up at our cabin, right on the water. So we do the sauna and do the lake and everything. There’s a lot of Scandinavian descent in Minnesota, so saunas are pretty big here too.

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