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Friday, April 18, 2014

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Soo’s Schiller developing into tough guy to play against

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Landon Schiller

Landon Schiller refused to take “no” for an answer – and in the long run, it got him the result he was looking for.

Last year, the Thornhill native attended the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds’ camp, but didn’t make the cut. It was back to major midget for him, where he suited up for the Toronto Junior Canadiens.

He didn’t mope or pout. Instead, he worked on his game, developing the foot speed and strength he’d need if he wanted to play in the OHL.

Last summer he worked out at the BodySmith gym in Stouffville, along with lots of other OHL players and prospects, following an exercise regimen specifically designed for hockey players.

This season, his efforts paid off: he cracked the starting lineup of the Greyhounds as a 17-year-old right winger.

Schiller recently turned 18 and, after serving a 10-game suspension, he’s getting back in the groove with the ’Hounds.

“I always had faith. It was a matter of making it happen,” he said.

So far this season, with limited ice time, he’s scored one goal, but he has 43 minutes in penalties to go along with it. His stats suggest he’s got a lot more to give. As a 16-year-old with the Markham Majors, he scored 14 goals and added 21 assists in 52 games. He appeared in the GTHL all-star game in 2012

He admits coming from major midget to junior hockey was “a huge jump. The hockey is a lot faster, the guys here are a lot stronger.”

“At first it was tough, but with all the practising and trying to find where you fit, the guys helped me make the jump,” he said. “It’s difficult, but it’s good, because the guys are welcoming. It’s like a family.”

Schiller counts Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames as his favourite NHL players and role models. What he likes about them is that they’ll do just about anything to help their team win.

“I work really hard,” he said, in evaluating his game. “I’ll compete every shift, put pucks on the net, do the little things right.”

“To a certain degree [Schiller] is finding his way, what role he’s going to fill in the future,” said Greyhounds head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Schiller is “an energy guy, versatile who can play all [forward] positions. He’s just a very hard-working and respectful player who’s eager to contribute to the team. Those are the kinds of guys who are easy to have around,” Keefe said.

So far this season, Schiller has played mostly a fourth line, limited-minutes role, but he’s moved up when injuries or suspensions hit the team.

The Greyhounds see Schiller’s contributions increasing as he grows and gets more mature. He has a well-rounded skill set, including a good shot.

“We believe he’ll turn into a nice, all-around player who won’t be easy to play against,” Keefe said.

Since arriving in Sault Ste. Marie, Schiller has continued to work on his defensive game, killing penalties and developing a more “explosive” first step.

He’s also adjusting to life far from home. He’s been billeted with a local family and is enrolled in school, where he’s finishing Grade 12.

Now in his NHL draft year, Schiller‘s stats certainly don’t jump off the page screaming, “Pick me.”

But, he said, “I see it as a marathon, not a sprint. I hope to get more chances to show what I can do next year.

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