Hard-working Schwindt in starring role for Checkers

Photo: Charlotte Checkers

📝 by Bradley Cole | AHL On The Beat

Cole Schwindt got a taste of the American Hockey League during the 2020-21 season with the Syracuse Crunch as he played 10 games.

But it’s nothing like the experience he has been taking in this season.

Schwindt, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers in June 2020, is in the midst of his first full season in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers.

“Last year was kind of a taste of what I was looking forward to in my next step of hockey,” said Schwindt. “Just taking in everything I learned last year I think has helped me a lot.”

The rookie has found immediate success, as he leads the Checkers in points with 19 in 27 games played.

Not only is Schwindt finding ways to succeed on the ice, but has found ways to get comfortable living in a new city, as Charlotte is a new environment for the 20-year-old.

“This is exactly what I dreamed of as a kid,” Schwindt said on his transition to a new city. “I love it here in Charlotte and just being able to live on my own and take care of myself. I think that will help in the long run.”

Living in the same apartment complex with the rest of the rookies on the team has been another key factor in growing as a player on and off the ice, according to Schwindt. There are 11 rookies on the Checkers and all have played a huge role for the team’s success as Charlotte sits 14-11-2-0 with the holiday break ahead.

A big part of his solid start this season has been discussions with the coaching staff about his play with the Crunch last season. Sitting down with his coaches has helped Schwindt see where he needed to improve, he says.

The improvements have shown as Schwindt has tallied nine goals and 10 assists. As a majority of the Checkers’ roster has been shuffled throughout a dual affiliation with Florida and Seattle this year, Schwindt has played in every game for Charlotte.

For Checkers head coach Geordie Kinnear, Schwindt is a perfect fit for a team that is still young and improving.

“[He’s] a 200-foot player that plays the right way and shows up to work every day to get better,” Kinnear said. “You can see a steady climb since he got here. He’s a great teammate for us and overall a great hockey player.”

The hard-working characteristics Schwindt has brought to the team is something the whole rookie class instills as well, according to Kinnear.

Even though Schwindt, a third-round pick by the Panthers in the 2019 NHL Draft, is halfway into what will be his first full season as a professional, he knows what it takes to make it to the big leagues ― the young star earned his first recall and made his NHL debut for Florida on Dec. 16 ― and is willing to pay his dues to get there.

“Paying your dues in the American Hockey League is no joke,” said Schwindt. “This is exactly where I need to be to get to that next level. Just taking it a day at a time and embracing the grind is something I look forward to.”