By Steph Coratti, Guelphstorm.com
When looking at the last year, it would be safe to say it’s been a roller coaster for Nate Schnarr.
The Guelph Storm forward jumped into his first major junior season with a young, struggling squad to start the 2016-17 campaign, only to meet adversity in the shape of a shoulder injury that later required surgery.
Between the beginning of an OHL career and a surgically repaired shoulder, Schnarr was also eyeing the 2017 NHL Draft, where he was selected in the third round (75th overall) by the Arizona Coyotes.
“Almost surreal,” Schnarr said of hearing his name called, adding that experiencing it with family made it unbelievable. “You dream about that moment ever since you’re a little kid, and finally, you wake up that morning, and you barely slept the night before and… it’s here.”
A moment that made everything worth it – including the little bits of uncertainty along the way.
“I remember walking into the [NHL Combine] shortly after the surgery and I’d have to shake owners and [general managers’] hands with my left hand – that was like, ‘Oh, this is awkward to start,’ but it’s something I had to work through,” Schnarr explained. “It’s tough – such a big year and to go through an injury but it happens, it’s part of the game. I just went day-by-day, got better and felt better, and once that started to happen, it was a lot easier to start focusing.”
Following the draft, the highs continued as Schnarr attended Arizona’s Prospects Camp in June, followed by main camp in September – however, still recovering, and still sidelined.
“The first time I went down, it was tough because I couldn’t skate yet,” the Waterloo, Ontario native said, but taking the positives out of the situation, added that he was given first-class treatment with Coyotes staff. “Once I went back for main camp too, it was unbelievable. I was able to see what it takes to play at the next level, it’s really motivating.”
Getting to this point, though, Schnarr is quick to credit his two older brothers.
“Since I was a little boy, I remember watching them in the drive way and thinking, ‘I want to be that good one day,’” Schnarr said of Ben and Zach Schnarr, who are six and eight years older respectively. “Having them to motivate me and support me, it’s big for me.”
While for Ben and Zach, it’s been nothing short of an incredible ride.
“It’s a lot of fun watching Nate,” Ben, who sits in the middle of the Schnarr brothers, offered. “He still has so much potential, but I think the best part of his career so far is seeing how much he’s changed – not just on the ice, but off. He’s matured a lot and doesn’t act like a 17-year-old, which is a lot of fun because the age gap seems to be closing quick.”
That age gap, as the brothers recall, resulted in a lot of battles growing up – battles that they credit for Nate’s work ethic, and competitive drive.
“[We] were pretty competitive when it came to almost everything, but the moments that stick out are the crazy NHL Hits battles we had in the basement,” Zach, the oldest of the three Schnarrs, said. “I wouldn’t be lying if I said there were real fights and tears after those heartbreaking losses.”
“The best one would be how we used to beat him playing road hockey and mini sticks,” Ben added. “Looking back, it was probably a good way to toughen him up. He used to get so upset, but I think that helped him raise his compete level to where it is today – I’ve never met someone who hates losing more than him.”
A compete level paired with an unrivaled work ethic, Nate Schnarr seems to only be getting started as focus turns to his second OHL season, while also recently being named to the CIBC Canada-Russia Series in November.
“It’s amazing to watch him succeed,” Zach said. “Every now and then I think of him as the tiny curly haired kid that we grew up with, but he’s come a long way and put in a lot of hard work. He deserves all of the success he’s had.”