It started with a conversation – veteran forward Tanner Glass approaching then-Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska asking for Video Analyst Kohl Schultz to give one team presentation.
Huska granted the request.
The assignment: give the ‘pre-scout’ of divisional rival San Jose Barracuda.
“It was probably not my best one,” said Schultz.
Put on a scale? In his own words, a zero out of 10. ‘A’ to ‘F’ grade? A ‘D’.
The game’s result? December 7, 2017: Stockton 6, San Jose 0.
He swears the scout wasn’t a factor in the final score, but still you wonder what a 9-of-10 would’ve produced.
Schultz then had the opportunity to expand on his role during the 18-19 campaign with the Heat, taking four assigned scouting dates and running with it. This year he’ll see that number grow once again, but instead of one to four it’s four to 72 (and hopefully more after that).
The path to the increased workload started with a surprise, when Schultz was tipped off to an assistant coaching vacancy with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks by Calgary Flames Assistant General Manager Brad Pascall. It was a potential win-win, an opportunity to return to his home of Kansas City while taking the next step to realizing his goal of earning a NHL head coaching gig. Remaining within the Flames’ hockey family was an added plus.
So he dialed up Mavericks head coach John-Scott Dickson and Team President Brent Thiessen, hoping to schedule an interview. He got it – an hour-and-a-half call, spanning from coaching style, to X’s and O’s, to just a simple personality check. Then he waited.
Never nervous, but confident.
“I was like the guy who bought a lottery ticket,” Schultz said on the anticipation to hear if he was the choice. “You talk yourself up to ‘I’m gonna get this. This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to spend it on a Lamborghini.’ For me, I was thinking I was getting the job, so I need to look at apartments, stay up to date.”
After a two-week pause, the phone rang. It was Thiessen on the other end.
“You’re the guy. Let’s do this.”
For the previous two seasons, Schultz had served as Video Analyst and Team Services while studying under current Heat head coach Cail MacLean. Over the next two seasons, Schultz would pick MacLean’s brain, bounce ideas off the Heat bench boss and earned the opportunity to expand his role within the hockey ops setting in Stockton. MacLean, who himself coached in the ECHL, is confident in the former Heat staffer to contribute at a high level in the Midwest.
“Kohl has a great knowledge of the game,” said MacLean when asked about what made him sure Schultz would be an asset to the Mavs’ bench. “He’s had to watch the game from a variety of angles over the course of his career so far. What’ll really help him is his ability to multitask. In the ECHL, you have to wear a lot of hats. He does an excellent job of that.”
Beyond the newest guy to stand behind the Mavericks’ bench, Schultz’s addition to the staff brings another level of comfort with the developmental affiliation – something that had already been strong through the first two seasons, but an aspect that will only grow with more inter-staff familiarity.
“We’ve had a good relationship thus far,” said MacLean. “It goes both ways. We’re comfortable knowing someone we’ve had in our office and on our staff is working with the players that will go up and down. From their level, it’s great for John-Scott to have Kohl and for Kohl to have seen an inner view of how things are run at this level in terms of what the Flames are looking for, what the Heat are looking for, and put their own spin on it.”
The relationship between the Heat staff and Schultz is one that is close – a probable state of affairs when you go through the grind of two seasons on the same staff. Perhaps it is closer still because of the role his time in Stockton had in growing ‘Schultzy’ as a coach.
“In terms of Cail, I’m never going to be able to thank him enough,” said Schultz. “I don’t think he’ll ever realize how much he did for me here, especially my first year. In terms of Domenic Pittis, Joe Cirella, Ryan Huska and Colin Zulianello, all of them were just unbelievable in helping bring me along.”
The new-look Mavericks staff is coming together with their opening night fast-approaching. The duo behind the bench have a quasi-yin-and-yang vibe, an intense Dickson with a more affable Schultz.
When looking to fill the assistant job, Dickson had options. Once Schultz’s name was thrown into the hat, though, it became an easy choice.
“Talking to him, you can tell he has hockey knowledge,” said Dickson. “Talking to Cail (MacLean) and Brad (Pascall) as well, they liked how he worked with guys here. He has a lot of connections throughout university and pro hockey, which is good on the recruiting side of it. Honestly, after talking with him and with the guys here, I had no doubts at all.”
It will be different this season for Schultz, no doubt. First time behind the bench in professional hockey will bring about some adjustments. Regardless, the mood seems to be confident in Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
“It won’t be a shock, but it’ll be intense to start,” said Dickson, who also got his first assistant coaching job with Kansas City. “Once you settle in and you know what you want – I’m sure he’ll be prepared and know what he wants to do with the game plan, with the next game.”
Here’s betting Schultz has at least one more ‘0-for-10’ effort in him that can produce two points in the standings.
Entering his sixth year of his coaching career, Schultz has to wait just a couple of weeks before his name is directly attached to a professional win or loss. Exciting, for sure. Nerve-wracking? You wouldn’t know it talking to him.
It’s been a long road, one that started at Bemidji State, turned into a video coordinator gig with the Maine Black Bears. He’s coached some youth – including his biggest coaching mentor, he says, in his then-assistant Terry Hoey – and he moved in next to Paul Maurice when he was 13 (yeah, he buried that lead too).
Still, though, he’s just getting started.
“I don’t think there’s an ‘on target’ or ‘ahead of schedule,’ no normal path to take,” he said when asked where he’s at on his career map. “It’s one of those things where the end goal is the National Hockey League.”
“It’s very, very important to me to get there one day.”
With players, the route of reaching the NHL from Kansas City would likely start there, then head to Stockton, then to the Flames. For Schultz, the next step in his development is a little different.
It’s only natural that the next step on a path with no map starts at home.
Original story courtesy of Brandon Weiss and Stockton Heat