Ohio State senior forward hockey captain Nick Schilkey wishes he had a dollar for every time he has been asked why he came to OSU from his home state of Michigan. If so, he said he would be as rich as another Buckeye: L Brands owner Les Wexner. The constant questioning will be worth it, however, if Schilkey is successful in his pursuit of a Big Ten championship and the program’s first berth into the NCAA tournament since 2009.
A native of Marysville, Michigan, Schilkey grew up playing in the Detroit area primarily with the nationally recognized HoneyBaked AAA program. It was his parents, Glen and Michelle, along with his other family ties that instilled the love for the game of hockey in him.
“My dad always joked that he put me in skates before I could walk.” Schilkey said.
His speed and agility — which led him to score 87 goals and assist on 85 others between the ages of 13 and 16 against NHL players Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens and Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets — caught the attention of OSU.
It was not until his final year with HoneyBaked in 2010-11 that he realized college hockey was a legitimate option.
“I don’t think I could ever look back at one of those teams and thinking to myself as being one of the best guys because we were so good,” Schilkey said.
OSU was the first school to approach Schilkey about furthering his career in hockey. The program’s commitment to Schilkey, facilities and campus life sold him immediately, he said.
“I go to different schools around the country and play and nothing beats what we have here,” Schilkey said. “I came down here and the coaches really wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here. This was the spot for me.”
Before he moved to Columbus, Schilkey played junior hockey for two years, a common prerequisite for hockey players before beginning their college endeavors.
After two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the U.S., Schilkey was ready to showcase his talents at OSU.
The team he was recruited by, however, had changed by the time he arrived. In April 2013, OSU coach Mark Osiecki was fired and replaced by Steve Rohlik, who had been an Osiecki assistant.
Schilkey was not deterred.
“I was comfortable with the coaches because (Rohlik) was here,” Schilkey said. “For me, I didn’t think anything would change too much.”
Rohlik recalled the recruitment of Schilkey, who stood out like maize and blue in a sea of scarlet and gray.
“When you walked into the rink, you knew who Nick Schilkey was,” Rohlik said. “He’d get that puck and he’d be Mach 10 down the ice. He could score. One thing that always grabbed me is that he wanted it. He wanted the puck, he wanted to be involved, he wanted to be ‘the guy.’ There was no hesitation in his game.”
Rohlik has continued to be impressed by Schilkey’s performances weekend after weekend.
“You know what you’re getting when he touches the ice,” Rohlik said. “I know if I throw him out there, he’s going to give me everything that he’s got.”
And it shows in his production, Rohlik said.
In 108 career games, Schilkey has 43 goals and 48 assists. He has been voted team captain twice due to leadership that has rubbed off on his teammates.
“Right away freshman year, I noticed that he never quits,” senior defenseman Josh Healey said. “He goes out there every shift and every time in the weight room and goes until he can’t go anymore. It really pushed me to be my best when I was around him … He’s a leader by example and guys follow that, it’s a credit to him.”
So far this season, the team has followed him to an upset win over No. 3 Denver last Friday on its home ice, followed by a tie with Air Force the next night.
As the Buckeyes head into the heart of the 2016-17 season, Rohlik said there is no one he would trust more to lead the team.
“I think it’s in him right now that he wants to do something special before he leaves here,” Rohlik said. “He’s already had such a huge impact on this program, not only by being a great player, but by being a great person. I can’t say enough about him. He’s one of those guys, as a coach, you love having him in your program.”
As for Schilkey, the legacy he wants to leave behind is a championship in his home state. The conference tournament will be hosted at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for the final time in March.
“To get this team back there and obviously it’s going to take a lot of leaders in the room, it’s going to take the team to accomplish that goal,” Schilkey said. “I think we’re excited for it. I think we’re confident in that this is one of the best opportunities we’ve had in my four years here. To leave on top is something everybody wants to do.”
Ranked No. 19 in the latest uscho.com poll, Schilkey and the Buckeyes head to Oxford, Ohio, on Saturday to take on in-state rival Miami at Goggin Ice Center with the puck drop scheduled for 8:05 p.m.