In an attempt to discuss something other than the lockout, let’s take a look around the divisional opponents for the Wild and our first stop has the Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Justin Schultz making headlines.
Schultz, who was drafted 43rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, could not come to terms on a contract with the Orange County club, the first step in becoming a free-agent. He then signed a two-year deal with the Oilers, who are now giggling in hysterics at their luck.
The 22-year old is spending the lockout playing for the Oilers AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons and if the first few weeks of the season are any indication, this kid is the real deal and will make a sudden impact on the Oilers whenever the season gets underway.
Through five games with the Barons, the former University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni has registered four goals and four assits and sits tied for sixth in the league in scoring. He also leads the Barons in scoring which is no small feat in itself considering some of the NHL talent that is playing in OKC. The names Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Magnus Paajarvi would normally strike fear into any opposition just seeing their name in print. And while they still will, it’s Schultz who’s carried the hot hand for the Barons, showcasing his offensive prowess by a defenceman.
One area that Schultz is said to be a key addition to the Oilers is on the powerplay. Over the years the Oilers have typically had one of the worst powerplays in the league as they’ve lacked that calming influence on the point who can steer the play with the man advantage. Schultz has that ability along with a powerful shot and the knack to see the ice that has been compared to the great Scott Niedermayer.
To date, Schultz has three powerplay assists and has proven he can be a valuable asset on the penalty kill, registering two short-handed goals and adding an assist. Talk about a versatile defenceman.
His age is the other bright spot for the Oilers. At the young age of 22, Schultz still has room to grow into a full-time NHL player but is already years ahead of most first year NHL defenceman. Whether it’s because he spent four additional years at the University level that allowed him to mature before making the jump to the pro circuit, Schultz has exemplified he advanced beyond his years. He will no doubt fit right in with a group of young, energetic and highly skilled Oilers.
Should we have a season at some point this year, look for Schultz to do great things in Edmonton. He may not be enough to boost this club into the playoffs, given their need for a solid stay at home defenceman and an upgrade in goal likely wouldn’t hurt either. But this we do know. Given how well Schultz has adjusted to the AHL, making that next step into the big leagues should be something he handles with ease, giving the Oilers yet another young, exciting player to watch.
As if they don’t have enough already.