Is Justin Schultz Worth the Hype?

Thomas Drance
June 28 2012 10:27AM

 

(This is a trunctated version of a longer Canucks Army post by Thomas Drance)

There are conflicting reports, but it appears as if Justin Schultz, with his representatives from Newport Sports in tow, will begins to hear pitches from individual teams hoping desperately to land the highly touted 21 year old defenseman on Thursday. That's per Bob Mckenzie:

Schultz's Bust Potential

I haven't seen Justin Schultz play very much at all. I caught a game of his broadcast on the Score this past winter, but I mostly paid attention to someone else on the ice. Looking over the data, however, I'm convinced that any comparisons between him, and over-hyped guys like Fabian Brunnstrom, or Matt Gilroy are superficial and borderline silly.

First of all, Schultz has serious pedigree. Gilroy and Brunnstrom were undrafted late-bloomers, whereas Justin Schultz was part of the ridiculously loaded 2008 defenseman draft class (along with Doughty, Pietrangello, Bogosian, Karlsson, Carlsson and Myers). The Wisconsin Badger was selected in the second round of that draft - two slots behind Canucks prospect Yann Sauve - and he's been highly touted ever since.

Secondly, when you look at the numbers, it's pretty clear that Justin Schultz was the single best offensive defenseman not playing in the NHL this past season. He's not the best blue-line prospect under the Sun (for my money, that presumptive title belongs to Bruins prospect Doug Hamilton), but at a minimum, Schultz looks like he's ready to produce offense at the NHL level. 

Ranking NHL Equivalence

I compiled a list of some of the most highly-touted offensive defenseman who've been drafted in the first two rounds since 2008, but played outside of the NHL last season. I then ranked them based on the equivalent number of NHL points each produced last season in their respective leagues.

NHL equivalency numbers are based on some math done by Gabe Desjardins of Behindthenet.ca. While they're not a perfect "predictor" of offensive success by any means, they do give us a good baseline read on how ready a player is to contribute offensively, and how much they'll produce if they jump into a similar situation (top-pairing minutes, lots of power-play time) at the NHL level. Included in the list are two guys from the most recent NHL draft (Ryan Murray and Griffin Reinhardt), and because of the wide age range of players in the table, I've included each players age to contextualize the results:

  Age NHLE G NHLE A NHLE Pts
Justin Schultz 21 15 25 40
Dougie Hamilton 19 8 27 35
Adam Clandenning 19 4 26 30
Ryan Murphy 19 5 22 27
Joe Morrow 19 7 18 25
Nathan Bealieu 19 4 18 22
Brian Dumoulin 20 5 16 21
Brandon Gormley 20 7 14 21
Ryan Murray 18 6 11 17
Griffin Reinhardt 18 5 10 15
Simon Despres 20 4 8 12
Calvin De Haan 21 1 9 10
Jesse Blacker 21 1 9 10
Jonas Brodin 19 0 10 10

Just look at those goal totals.

About a month ago, Schultz's head-coach at Wisconsin, Mike Eaves, raved to Jason Botchford about Justin Schultz's one really "unique weapon" - his shot:

"The one thing that's just a gift is his shot. He has the innate ability to get that puck to the net to allow for rebounds, tip-ins and goals. He's got what we call a 'smart shot.'

He can bring the heat, but there are times he recognizes, you have to take a little off to get it at the net. Often times, those are the shots that go in. [Schultz's] shot is very special."

The data certainly backs up Eaves' laudatory comments about Schultz's cannon. While it's a little much to just pencil Schultz in as an automatic ten goal scorer from the blue-line next season, the data indicates that there's no one in the world who both: has a better point shot than Justin Schultz, and wasn't playing in the National Hockey League last season... 

More Context

For the sake of further comparison, I put together another table. Basically I took the top-10 rookie defenseman in NHL scoring over the past two seasons, and broke down their final season outside of the NHL (KHL, CHL, NCAA, AHL are all represented) based on the NHLE numbers. Mostly I'm just curious as to how Schultz's production in Wisconsin last season compares with the likes of Cam Fowler, PK Subban and Jake Gardiner in their final seasons before those guys became fixtures in "the show." The number are again very flattering to Schultz:

  Age NHLE G NHLE A NHLE Pts
Justin Schultz 21 15 25 40
Jake Gardiner 20 9 25 34
John Carlsson 20 3 27 30
Justin Faulk 19 7 21 28
Kevin Shattenkirk 21 7 19 26
Travis Hamonic 19 7 19 26
Cam Fowler 18 4 21 25
PK Subban 21 9 16 25
Slava Voynov 21 7 17 24
Jamie McBain 22 4 17 21
Dmitry Orlov 19 3 15 18

There are no guarantees in life. Justin Schultz could disappoint and end up in the AHL next season, regardless of what team wins the Schultz-derby this week. But I just don't see the bust potential.

In fact, it looks to me like there's a very good reason why he is being courted by 26 NHL teams at the moment. Schultz's eye-popping production at Wisconsin, which, he's sustained for two seasons now is tantalizing; and while the numbers indicate nothing about his proficiency in his own end, they do auger well for his future success at the NHL-level.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 justDOit
June 28 2012, 01:41PM
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Nice explanation of the differences that set Schultz apart from other over-hyped prospects.

There is still a slight odor to this entire Schultz thing though. Was a regular ELC with the Ducks, in the range of $700k - $800k per season not good enough for a kid out of college? Was the thought of playing on a team with Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Selanne, Fowler and others not dreamy enough? The thought of having to live in southern California too stressful? I'm sure that the Ducks tried as hard as they could to get him to sign, so what's the problem then?

While you've made a lot of good points why he might be worth signing, as a prospect, I still wonder about the personality of this kid and how much of a team player he will be.

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#2 Aitch
June 30 2012, 03:49PM
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...and now he belongs to the Oilers. yeaaaaaaa!

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