Rolling with opportunity, Schaufler riding wave of confidence as a difference-maker for the Griffins

Loeden Schaufler is second in scoring on the Griffins with 12 points in 16 games ... and he plays defence (Calvin Hui photo).
Loeden Schaufler is second in scoring on the Griffins with 12 points in 16 games ... and he plays defence (Calvin Hui photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – With timely goals, highlight-reel passes and strong two-way defensive play, Loeden Schaufler looks like a new man out there this season for the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team.

In reality, he's simply unlocking the talent that he's always had with confidence and opportunity.

"I think confidence is a big piece of it," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "I also think it's part of the natural development. He's in his third year now, he's got two seasons under his belt, and he's got a chance to play a whole bunch. 

"Now it's the comfortability and confidence piece. He's seen what there is to see in this league and now he can kind of fit in and see where he can make plays."

Schaufler is doing just that with the most recent example being the absolutely sizzling stretch pass from his own net that sent Kadyn Chabot in for a breakaway goal last Saturday in Regina.

"I kind of just came around the net and it was kind of a broken play," said Schaufler. "We were in the middle of a line change on our powerplay, and Chabot just got a good look on the stretch. I looked up and he was wide open. I just made the play and I guess it worked out."

Not everyone would even attempt that play, but his game is free flowing and assertive – exactly what the Griffins need right now.

"I think the good start has really put some confidence into my game," said Schaufler, who is second on the Griffins in scoring with five goals and 12 points in 16 games. "Even just the opportunities I've been given, they want me to make the plays. I'm put in the situation to do that, so I think my confidence is just really high this year."

The DeWinton, Alta. product will lead the Griffins (6-9-1) into action against cross-town rival Alberta (10-4-2) on Friday (7 p.m., Clare Drake ) and Saturday (5 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, both Canada West TV).



Last season was a much different story for Schaufler, who played behind defensive minute munchers Curtis Roach and Neithan Salame. 

"I was more in a depth role, penalty kill and just playing hard, meaningful minutes," he said. "Towards the end of last year, we had a lot of injuries, so I played powerplay and I'd fill in here and there, but we had two guys who ran the top of the powerplay for most of last season, so I was mostly PK and playing hard defence and being hard to play against."

At the same time, he picked up a few things from Roach and Salame, who were unafraid to challenge opponents by driving play forward with terrific mobility and high hockey IQ.

"From Roach, especially, he ate up a lot of minutes," said Schaufler of the graduated veteran D-man, who is now playing professionally in Germany. "He made good plays and he wasn't scared to make them. Same with Sal, he wasn't scared. He had a lot of confidence with the puck and they did well offensively."

Loeden Schaufler played for seven different junior teams across three different leagues before coming to MacEwan (Derek Harback photo).

Schaufler grew up just south of Calgary, playing his minor hockey in Okotoks before going the academy route when he hit U15, spending a year with Edge School and another three with Wilcox, Sask.-based Notre Dame.

"I played there right up until I went to junior," he said. "It's a little town in the middle of nowhere. You just live and breathe hockey; it's the only thing to do, so I just got better."

His junior career was quite the journey as Schaufler played for seven different teams across three leagues over five seasons in the following order: Notre Dame (SJHL), Kootenay Ice (WHL) – the team that drafted him – Seattle (WHL), Prince Albert (WHL), Spruce Grove (AJHL), Edmonton (WHL) and Sherwood Park (AJHL).

The obvious highlight was being a part of the 2018-19 WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders – after being dealt to them at the trade deadline – and getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to suit up in the Memorial Cup.

"We were pretty banged up after the playoffs," said Schaufler. "We went to Game 7 in the finals in double overtime (beating Vancouver 3-2). We had a quick turnaround. We had to go all the way to Halifax (for the Memorial Cup) and were pretty banged up and tired, so we didn't get the results we wanted. But it was a pretty good experience for everybody."

His experience between Major Junior and Tier II Junior mirrors his transformation at MacEwan, as well. The 2022-23 version of Schaufler was what he was in the WHL – a depth D-man – while the 2023-24 version was the player from the AJHL where he finished off with 13 points in 16 games for the Sherwood Park Crusaders during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season.

"In the AJHL, I played on the powerplay lots and I did well there," he said. "Coming into junior, part of my game, too, was being offensive and playing on the powerplay, so it's good to get that going again."

Those were the glimpses the Griffins saw when recruiting Schaufler, said Dailey.

"The natural (development) path is maybe your first few years you're maybe not getting the ice time, maybe you're not getting the powerplay time," said Dailey. "But if you keep working and developing, you'll get your opportunity. He's ran with that opportunity. 

"We've definitely seen glimpses of this in previous seasons where he's made some really good plays for us. So, we were hoping this would be the result, but you just never know.

"We're very happy with him. He's a kid who works hard, he's a very good teammate, he does everything we ask, so I'm happy to see him get rewarded."