Vail, Arapahoe, Thunderbirds grad Schelter finds faith in Minnesota, WHL experience with Winterhawks
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Luke Schelter spent his youth in Colorado playing for the Vail-Eagle Hockey Association, Arapahoe Warriors and Colorado Thunderbirds before going up to Minnesota for a new challenge at the Northstar Christian Academy.
This past season, the 2004-born Centennial native also left home again, playing six games for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. He’ll be a full-time player for Portland in 2021-22.
“My six games in Portland were huge for me,” Schelter said. “Now that I have got my first few games in, I know what to expect for next year. The experience I gained will help me to focus my training this summer. I think that I am going to be ready to jump into next season and have an impact right away because of this experience.”
Schelter added that choosing between U.S. junior hockey and the Canadian Hockey League was a tough decision but he knows he made the right choice for his situation.
“I chose to play in the WHL because I personally believe that it is the best route for me to get to the NHL,” said Schelter. “The coaches at Portland really wanted me to come up there and play for them and I could tell that they wanted to develop me. The U.S. junior hockey leagues are more unsafe, in my opinion. There is always a risk that you make a USHL team then get sent down to the NAHL where you might get sent all the way down to the NA3HL. If a player gets sent down to the NA3HL, it does not impact the USHL team in any way. In the WHL, the teams are actually paying you to play for them so if you are not playing well, they want to develop you into a better player instead of just sending you away for a new player.
“On top of that, a WHL team promises a player a lot of scholarship money if they do not make the NHL. In order to try and keep as much money as possible, it is in the WHL team’s best financial interest to have as many players as possible make the NHL. The same cannot be said about the U.S. junior hockey leagues. I am definitely looking forward to my first full season next year. It is going to be a big step in my life that I am really excited about.”
Schelter was selected by the Winterhawks in the sixth round (124th overall) of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, and notable Winterhawks alumni from Colorado include former captain Dominic Turgeon, last year’s alternate captain Jake Gricius and Alex Overhardt.
Named 2020-21 team captain of Northstar Christian Academy’s 16U team, Schelter collected 40 goals and 30 assists for 70 points in 64 games this year, ranking him top ten in the country among 16U AAA scorers.
“I think my season in Minnesota went really well,” said Schelter. “One of the reasons I went up to Minnesota in the first place was to get more ice time. Northstar owns their rink so I was able to skate whenever I wanted. Our team also had a dedicated 45-minute skills skate (on top of our 90-minute team skate) where we would work intensively on skating, stickhandling, shooting, and other skills. I also personally grew in my faith over this past year. Every single day, Northstar had a team chapel where we got to study the word and praise God. Overall, it was a great year with a lot of on-ice and off-ice growth.
“We would also work out in the gym for an hour per day. The coaches at Northstar care more about what type of man you are than what type of hockey player you are. They taught us about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us on the cross. Every day, we would learn more about God’s will for our lives. The development at Northstar is unparalleled by any organization I have ever seen in my life.”
Back in Colorado, Schelter started out on defense at Vail-Eagle and then switched to center and wing once he moved to Arapahoe and ultimately, to the Thunderbirds.
“My first coach (with the Thunderbirds) was Zach Blom, and he taught me a lot of systems play and emphasized using your hockey IQ to make plays,” Schelter said. “My next coaches were Milan Hejduk and Jan Hejda. They were both NHL players, so they had a lot of skill. They were big into developing skills and using those skills during the game. The year before I moved out to Minnesota, I went to Rhode Island and played for Mount St. Charles Academy. Scott Gainey was the head coach there and he focused on team play over individual skills.”
Looking ahead, Schelter has attainable aspirations in mind with the 2021-22 season on tap.
“In the short term, I want to become a major impact player for the Portland Winterhawks and get drafted to the NHL next summer,” Schelter said. “In school- and life-wise, I want to graduate high school and read more books of the Bible. In the long term, I want to play in the NHL and win a Stanley Cup.
“I also want to raise a Christian family that will be a light to the world.”
— Matt Mackinder
(May 20, 2021)