ST. LOUIS — Before training camp, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock admitted there were few actual roster openings for his squad.
But with plenty of ice time up for grabs in a variety of roles, one of the players making a quick impression has been former first-round draft pick Jaden Schwartz.
Asked Monday where the 20-year-old Schwartz was stacking up early in camp, Hitchcock's response was quick and to the point.
"The way he practiced today, right at the top of the heap," Hitchcock said. "He's 192 pounds, he's not a light player. He's a heavy, strong player and for his size he's heavy on the puck. He's a coach's player, he does things that you like as a coach. I thought that line was excellent today."
Schwartz has been skating with center Patrik Berglund and winger Chris Stewart during the early camp sessions. Capable of playing center or wing, the former Colorado College star gained valuable experience with Peoria and the Blues last season.
During the lockout, Schwartz had a strong run at Peoria with nine goals and 19 points in 33 games.
"He's right there," Hitchcock said. "He's got speed, he's got quickness, he gets into the hard areas and he's really good on the forecheck. It will be interesting when things get dialed up for real, but I think right now he's showing more and more every day he's here.
"I think we'll get a better read here in the next couple scrimmages."
The Blues have 7 p.m. scrimmages planned for Tuesday and Thursday at Scottrade Center. Both are free and open to the public, as are all the training camp practice sessions.
For the second day in a row, Hitchcock seemed unhappy with his team's inability to deal with a quicker tempo throughout the full practice.
"Too many smiles, so we'll have to get rid of some of the smiles," he said. "We're getting closer to the game (on Saturday), we need the game faces on pretty soon."
On Monday, the Blues put a lot of time in with their three power-play units.
"First half was good, second half not so good," Hitchcock said. "I thought we lost our energy in the second half. Some of it is because you're doing special teams, but I think we still have a ways to go to get summer hockey out of our mode.
"We'll do that hopefully with the intensity level of the scrimmage tomorrow and the way we practice Wednesday and Thursday."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.