January 27 2013 11:41AM
One of the ways we can evaluate rookie players is by comparing them to players of the past. In the case of Justin Schultz, finding rookie comparables might be a problem. Why? Justin Schultz is unique.
Justin Schultz has played 4 NHL games now and is among the league's top 30 defensemen in time-on-ice (ranks 28th this morning in the NHL among D, 24:02 per game). Among rookie defensemen, the numbers are impressive:
TIME ON ICE, NHL ROOKIE DEFENSEMEN 12-13
- Justin Schultz, Edmonton 24:02
- Matt Irwin, San Jose 19:07
- Jonas Brodin, Minnesota 19:05
- Brian Lashoff, Detroit 18:06
- Brendan Smith, Detroit 18:04
That's a big number, 24 minutes a night. To put it in some perspective, only four Oilers defensemen have averaged 24 or more minutes a night in one season since 2005 and they did it only 6 times: Ryan Whitney 10-11 (25:20); Tom Gilbert 10-11 (24:30); Ryan Whitney 09-10 (24:45); Sheldon Souray 08-09 (24:50). Sheldon Souray 07-08 (24:20); Chris Pronger 05-06 (27:59).
That's some impressive company. It's early, but the young man is unlikely to play less than he is now, and as the season wears along it is possible he'll add penalty-killing to his EV and PP minutes.
THE CALDER TROPHY
In historic terms, the Edmonton Oilers are an upstart club. Most teams with their history have won their 5 Stanley's over an 80 or 90 year span; we've been spoiled since 1979-80 compared to the rest of the hockey world.
In spite of the Stanley's, the Hart's, the Smythe's, no Oiler has ever won the Calder, emblematic of the top NHL rookie each season. They've been close--the NHL made up a silly rule to rob Gretzky, Kurri and Arnott's brilliant debut's were overshadowed by others, and more recently Hall and the Nuge were injured and unable to win the prize.
The Oilers have two genuine hopes this season. Nail Yakupov, who has scored 2 goals and is as famous as any rookie since Crosby courtesy being a #1 pick and the most famous celebration in regular season history, has a real chance to win it.
And Justin Schultz has a better one. He is 4, 2-3-5 and ranks 2nd in scoring among all NHL defensemen, leading rookie blue by two points (Boston's Dougie Hamilton--another outstanding rookie--has 3 points). Among all rookies, the defenseman trails only Vladimir Tarasenko and Cory Conacher (who have 7 points each) and he leads all NHL rookies in time-on-ice.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There is still so much to be revealed--but its already clear we're talking about something quite special in regard to Justin Schultz. The Oilers acquired exactly what they needed, and Schultz landed in an ideal spot for him.
It is, quite frankly, a perfect fit.