SAN JOSE — Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko both debuted with the Arizona Coyotes in 2008-09, but their paths to their first NHL seasons could not have been more distinct.
Boedker was a junior standout with the Pete DeBoer-coached Kitchener Rangers, and won an OHL championship before being selected eighth overall by Arizona in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
Schlemko also won a championship in his final season before his NHL debut. His, however, came playing in the now-defunct CHL as a member of the Arizona Sundogs. After signing with the Coyotes as an undrafted free agent in 2007, the Coyotes assigned Schlemko to the CHL that fall.
“It’s a good story now,” Schlemko laughed. “You never really want to start there, but you just keep grinding and try and work your way up and that’s what I did.”
That grind continued in the AHL, where Schlemko played the majority of the 2008-09 season. Boedker played 78 games in the NHL that year as a rookie, while Schlemko played just three.
The two played as teammates extensively for the first time in 2009-10, but as teammates with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, which was Arizona’s minor league affiliate at the time. They each would spend parts of 2010-11 with San Antonio, but no more after that, as Boedker established himself as one of the Coyotes’ top forwards, and Schlemko fought for a regular role as the Coyotes’ seventh defenseman. Their time in the minor leagues together created a sense of mutual admiration, according to Boedker.
“He’s battled through it, I’ve battled through it,” Boedker said. “It’s nice to see when you’ve kind of gone through the same thing that you come out on the other side and you’re doing really well.”
Boedker and Schlemko find themselves on the other side as teammates for the first time since 2014-15. The pair signed four-year contracts with the San Jose Sharks this July. After making the Stanley Cup playoffs just twice together, the two are now going to be relied upon as key contributors on a potential Stanley Cup contender.
Schlemko’s been at training camp since it opened, while Boedker just began practicing with the team this week. The Sharks haven’t been a hard group to get to know, but having a longtime teammate has helped too, according to Boedker.
“I think the guys in here have been great. [They’re] easy to get to know, and easygoing guys,” Boedker said. “But, it’s always easier when you know somebody from the get-go.”
The pair could play their first preseason game together tonight, and in Arizona no less. Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer has not announced who will suit up for San Jose, but said yesterday that Boedker, Schlemko, and the rest of the training camp roster will travel on their two-game road trip to wrap up the preseason.
Schlemko’s already returned to Arizona once, and played against the Coyotes for the first time last season while he was playing with the New Jersey Devils. It was a strange experience at first, Schlemko said.
“It almost feels like a completely different rink when you go into the visitor’s room and you’re on the other side of the bench and the other side of the ice,” Schlemko said. “It’s a little weird at first, but after a few shifts it’s just like any other game.”
If Boedker plays tonight, it will be his first game as an opponent at Gila River Arena. He also expects it to be a “little weird,” he said.
“It’ll be like any other game I guess, but just in a rink you know really well and against people you know really well,” Boedker said.
He’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and old friends in his preseason return to Arizona, but also playing alongside one when the games become meaningful in San Jose.
“We were there for a lot of years together, so obviously you get to know each other pretty well and you get to play a lot of hockey together. It was fun and it’s fun to be back together.”