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:


  1. Justin Schultz, Edmonton 24:02
  2. Matt Irwin, San Jose 19:07
  3. Jonas Brodin, Minnesota 19:05
  4. Brian Lashoff, Detroit 18:06
  5. 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.


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.



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.

  • Shultz gives us 4 on the rush. It will be a while before teams adjust. Could be a 30 point year for Shultz.

    Yak has found chemistry with Gagner. Yak has shown flashes of brilliance.

    Montreal loses Pacioretty for 3 weeks. Lars Edler a top 6 guy? Subban still unsigned. Another week of stalemate with Subban combined with a couple of losses may see a move by Montreal to obtain a top 6 forward. Is there a deal to be had with Montreal for Subban who would fit just niely here in Edmonton. 2 First round picks this draft? Hemsky healthy. Lots of options if your Montreal wanting to make a deal. They’ll get value. But how long will Montreal’s new GM’s patience be when/if the losses start to accumulate. If I am Montreal fan I am asking myself also this question. Where the hell is Rene Bourque?

    Will Toronto make a move this week for a top 6 forward?

    Ryan Jones certainly would help the Oilers 3rd line right about now.

    Teemu Harty needs to be returned to OKC as soon as Jones is healthy.

  • Alsker

    Its early in the season yet but JS has brought what he was doing in the AHL and continued it with success in the NHL…definitely appears to be the real deal now if Klefbom heals and is what everyone says he is we have most of our D taken care of…Oh getting to watch Coffey in the 80s Schultz seems to popsition himself very much the same with one stride hes in the slot or peels to blueline…we havent had that here since..ummm..oh ya the 80s..good read as always Lowetide

  • Alsker

    Schultz has been a bright spot. With all the penalty we are yet to see the Oilers play a complete game. The Oilers have been stuck in 3rd gear this year.

    I wonder if there’s going to be some line shake-ups next game, and if Leaguers going to keep letting Gagner get destroyed in the FO dot.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Yeah it’s painful watching him. The vets have not done their jobs yet. The kids are showing up as advertised. Belanger’s been pretty good but Smyth and Horcoff has not impressed me at all. Horcoff seems slower out there and Smyth at times has looked like he’s not even in the game at all.

      Edit– I love boobies. Thanks LT

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I agree that Schultz is special in that he can read a play prior to it developing but we need more than one defenseman who can do this.

    Having two offensive options on defense are as important as having two good players on an offensive line. In fact I would contend more important.

    We need another offensive minded defenseman who can skate…….there are options out there to be had.

    If Tamby can stop gloating about having four first round picks then maybe he can start objectively looking at the chemistry and make up of the team. Until he starts being strategic this team will continue to tease us but never gain any consistency.

    Tamby has the be the worst GM in the league.

    • DSG

      Have to agree it is time to make some changes in the support crew… Still a big 2nd line center is probably more beneficial than another offensive dman… Gagner is showing he isn’t able to do the job… Points are coming but Yak and He sky are pulling him along….


      • Oilertown

        Would something like Gagner Hemsky and maybe + or ++ be enough?? And would he effect any of the other 3 Yak Nuge and Schultz being resigned?? Those are the questions Tambo needs to ask before he looks at a player of Getzlafs ilk.

      • eastcoastoil

        Getzalf would be perfect, but no sense trading for him as a UFA at the end of the year. You could enter the sweepstakes in the off season.

        Love Gagner but its him or Nuge. Unless Sam slides down to the third and a horcoff buy-out which sounds great but the salary cap would worry me.

        Wait out the year and see if you have a number one in Dubs. We have a bunch of wholes coming on the cap and some moves to make.

      • I would normally agree with you on the big centre but having seen what a good puck moving defenseman can do……..I am more inclined to defenseman first.

        I’m ambivalent to say the least on what we require……..kind of depends upon the game at this point of the season. The body of work over 25 games will probably tell the tale…….but I suspect at that point in time the playoffs may/may not be out of reach?

        • DSG

          Hey, a top flight d-man would be welcome but I think if faced with a choice you focus on 2nd line center and do what you can to find a nasty minute eating d man to booster the back end … Either way we both agree there is a change that needs to be made.. We aren’t balanced yet….

      • Oilers89

        Watching Gagner is horrid, get this guy moved before someone takes liberties with our other young smaller skilled guys. He would get eaten alive in the playoffs if we ever got there.

        Regular season play is completely different then the playoffs and watching him get man-handled in every zone of the ice is frightening.

        The addition of Getzlaf plus a couple of 3rd line players would make us a serious team.

  • MarcusBillius

    He’s our best defenceman, might be our best player, and in a re-draft from what is now looking like a legendary 2008 draft class, would certainly go no later than fifth – after Stamkos, Doughty, Karlsson, and Pietrangelo.

  • Oilertown

    I don’t care what the Oil do to improve the team as it seems we need improvment every where but in the skill dept. The only thing I hope is that Hall Ebs Schultz Yak and Nuge are NOT used no matter. If that’s all teams want they can stuff it and I would sit back and wait for either free agents or more stud picks.

  • Oilertown

    J.Schultz our most prominent force now , even exceeding most of our first overall younger stars . Surprisingly Eberle ( not a first overall ) seems to be on level with J.Schultz .

    In after game talk with Hartley they talked with Marc Crawford . This is approximately what Crawford had to say about the Nhl : The NHL is all about power and size due to rink size ! I’d have to agree , and thus all the skill we have is with nonpower and diminutive size in comparison to most teams . Like it or not , that defiency makes it unlikely we can be a top club despite the high talent level we have .

    How many do we go forward with and keep ? Do we have to many of same type , and therefore they cannot all be protected or expected to win physical battles in the long term ? Trying to overly protect them just seems to lead to worse team play and more time our team ends up with penalties . Gotta do something about our lack of size and physicallity upfront – and not with minor talents .

    Sure seems like refs are biased against Oilers so far , but that seems due to our silly ways of making up for our lack of physicallity and size . Like it or not we frequently get pushed around and win far to few battles for the puck . Lack of talent on defensive end is still glaring despite a very good J.Schultz . Replacements do not seem to be much better either .

    Look at our forwards and it could be Hobbit forming .

  • Alsker

    Getzlaf would be a dream come true but Edm is not disneyland..first hes UFA at the end of the season second the Ducks want to keep him so even if they move him it wont be until the trade deadline…not saying we dont need something but King Ralph may have to go with line juggling until Tambo has had enough time to assess and then act(or til MacT tells him what to do)

  • J Schu will be an elite sooner then we think.

    Gagner on the other hand has to get something going. He’s playing like he is content with being the default #2C. In the first 4 games I’ve seen 3 good periods of hockey from him. He loses on the dot more often than not, and is not very connected with his linemates on most of the plays/possesions.

    • – 2G, 2A, 4 points, second in team scoring, PPG player
      – Sweet dish to Yakupov, goal
      – Sweet dish to Hemsky, goal

      He’s babysitting an (albeit outstanding) rookie. When he played with Eberle and Hall last year he was outstanding (including the EIGHT POINT NIGHT).

      Between Hemsky more concentrated on dangling the entire opposition (and losing the puck 9 times out of 10 across the blue line in the process), and breaking in a rookie, I think he’s doing pretty damn fine.

      You trade him and the most you’ll be getting back is a guy who will produce pretty much like Gagner. Except the other team will put him with established, dedicated finishers and have one helluva second line.

  • Totally agree with your assessment on Schultz but more to the point they need to reconfigure what they have .First the lines need changed for about 5-10 games . RNH with EBS & Smyth ; Gags with Hemsky & Hall ; Horc with Yak & Magnus leaving Belanger with Hartski & Petrell . Change “D” to J Schultz & Whitney ; Smid & Petry with Fistric & Schultz .We need more balance and Smyth can run with RNH for a few games and get Yak back on the same side as Hemsky & Ebs . Right now basically no points from 3rd & 4th lines and they need to be shaken up.Schultz & Fistric should be major shut down pair. My opinion.

  • Frankenstein

    Now that the first four games are in the books it is pretty shocking that we have yet to actually have a lead in regulation. It really seems to me that we are consistently playing catch up.

    For me that catch up revolves around a few key points sor far:

    1. A total lack of passion from nearly all of the veteran players thus far. (please jonesy get back soon)

    2. Lack of size. We clearly need size, we are getting pushed around way too often. (fisric helps but man we need something more.. and I am not talking about aquiring someone to just go out there and fight as we are on the kill enough)

    3. Penalties. It seems like we are taking way, way, way, way too many stupid god damn penalties. (insert discipline here)

    4. We need to get a goaltender that can challenge Dubnyk for the top spot. (You don’t stay sharp by letting the blade rust, you need to use a sharpening stone every now and again)

    5. Faceoffs. I would like to know if we could bring in the best faceoff coach / player in the game to make us a top faceoff team. (Its just so much easier when you can start off with the puck, as opposed to chasing it from the go)

    If we can somehow address our weak faceoffs, lack of depth in goal, zombie like veterans, dwarfish stature, and our unbelievable avidity for taking penalties we may just have something special here. We need to acknowledge these issues, and actually deal with them.

  • Frankenstein

    The kid is unreal. He’s so polished and his skill is obvious. Dmen tend not to get the respect they deserve in the Calder race unfortunately so my guess is that Tarasenko will win the Calder. I hope one of our two famous rookies takes it home though.

  • Since this article has been Gagner bombed I might as well let out my rant.

    Why the hate on Gagner? He produces excellent points for a second line center. He’s got Four points in four games this year and he’s 23.

    Size is the most overrated aspect of this game. It is a bonus. It does give a slight advantage but only slight. Size means nothing compared to skill and work ethic. Sam needs to learn some more defensive skills of the game: face-offs, defensive zone coverage but those are learnable skills.

    Sam Gagner: 5’11 200 lbs

    Pavel Datsyuk 5’11 200 lbs

    Mike Richards 5’11 200 lbs

    Dave Bolland 6’0 185 lbs

    Those three are all solid defensively. No one complains about their size.

    Sam Gagner 2011-2012 75-18-29-47

    Mike Richards 2011-2012 74-18-26-44

    Gagner also has four points this season to Richards zero.

    Gagner plays hard every shift. He isn’t going to crush anyone but he is physical and battles hard. In the dying mins of the L.A. game I watched him take a shift where he out muscled a defender off the puck behind L.A.s net and passed it. Seconds later it came back to the defender again and again Gagner stole the puck simply by out muscling the defender. The two goals he’s scored in the last two games were both by crashing or going to the net. Same with the goal that got called back.

    Does Gagner need to improve his face-offs? Yes. Does he need to be better in the defensive zone yes. But he’s a top six forward so his primary objective is to get points and he is one of the best in the league at doing that on a second line. He’s physical, always gives 100%, and if we trade him our second line center will be Horcoff. Who we know can win face-offs and play a solid defensive game but we hat cause he can’t get points. So lay off Gagner. If we trade him I would bet it wouldn’t take long for people here to start complaining that we got rid of him.

  • Word to the Bird

    All these suggestions on how to improve on scoring but our Goals For was respectable in the first 4 games. It’s the play in our own end that needs a big improvement. Get that Goals Against down. I can understand that the younger players are still learning how to backcheck and everyone’s still adapting to Krueger’s new systems, but some improvements need to be made soon before the team falls to 12th in the conference with Gagner doing his “tired of losing” bit with the media.

    Speaking of Gagner, I think the comments on his size have less to do with his literal size and more to do with his soft play (he’s figuratively small). Sure he has a takeaway or two this season, but he loses too many faceoffs and his backchecking is sporadic at best. Despite his point totals, he’s a -3 after 4 games. Like I said, the Goals For is fine, but some players aren’t doing enough to stop the Goals Against. Yann Danis deserves some starts too.

  • Word to the Bird

    Never mind Whitney, why is Petry trying to be Justin Schultz out there and playing way too agressive offense? He is always caught up ice now. Am I the only one noticing this???

  • Milli

    Gagner isn’t the problem, get over it! We need a couple of hitters/energy guys in the line up. I think I’d like to see yak with ebs and nuge and then put hall with gags and hemmer or gags and ? But yak can hammer that puck so he’d be great with 4 and 14. Then let Hall drive the play with the Gagners line? I dunno, but I think it’d give a bit more balance. And when is Jones back because he will sure help out!

  • Oilers89

    On Gagner:
    Gagner is a good second line centre who I hope learns to improve his defensive game. He is not the problem. Everyone seems to be having lapses in our own end. RNH looked really good last game and seems to be finding his way now, and I’m hoping that Krueger shuffles the lines. For the top six I like either:

    (This should give each line a better ability to get out of their own end and create offence as it seems like RNH and Eberle have figured this out and Yak can benefit. The second line should be able to face almost anyone and do well)


    (The first line showed a lot of chemistry last year when RNH was hurt. For the second line, like I said earlier I have liked RNH’s game lately at both ends and I feel he may be able to get this line out of its own zone and feed both players while they have speed)

    I prefer these lines as I think it makes both much more dangerous.

  • Oilers89

    Why the hate for Gagner he’s our best value at point production per dollar salary, he’s been part of the big goals.

    to the commentor above,why would we redistribute the zombies to first and second line to improve third and forth line scoring? Makes no sense.

    Calgary has the lightest or second lightest team in the league, its not about size its about grit and getting dirty. Detroit has clearly shown that a smart forecheck is better than 225 lbs of meat running around.

    Smyth can’t keep up, whiney has been terrible, Horcoff average to poor. I’d pack up Whitney and picks for Subban.

    maybe kruegar needs to pay them a buck for every shot they take so we can eliminate the last pass which is always one too many 🙂

  • Oilers89

    Good Centers are falling off the trees in the NHL
    Gagner is the best thing out there, but he’s not the worst. I think he has added some grit to his game this year, going to the net, and his face off are improving every game. He need some upper body development and skating.
    The point is the good guys are not going to get traded ,as good Centers are hard to come by and teams dont give them up.
    UFA;s coming up… Getzlaf.. he is not going anywhere, he will resign..settle with a new home on the beach.. not coming north. The other semi decent UFA is Weise from Panthers…. same size and numbers as Gagner.. probably the same character. After that the pickings are slim…
    they are all over 35 years, plus,of age for starters. Dont build a team with older guys.
    So unless you are wanting to trade one of the Fab Five,, there is no one out there that is under 30 on the UFA.
    Its not that easy to trade , signing UFA etc., especially for good center men and good defense men.

  • Oilers89

    Good Centers are falling off the trees in the NHL
    Gagner is the best thing out there, but he’s not the worst. I think he has added some grit to his game this year, going to the net, and his face off are improving every game. He need some upper body development and skating.
    The point is the good guys are not going to get traded ,as good Centers are hard to come by and teams dont give them up.
    UFA;s coming up… Getzlaf.. he is not going anywhere, he will resign..settle with a new home on the beach.. not coming north. The other semi decent UFA is Weise from Panthers…. same size and numbers as Gagner.. probably the same character. After that the pickings are slim…
    they are all over 35 years, plus,of age for starters. Dont build a team with older guys.
    So unless you are wanting to trade one of the Fab Five,, there is no one out there that is under 30 on the UFA.
    Its not that easy to trade , signing UFA etc., especially for good center men and good defense men.

  • Oilers89

    I hope Getzlaf likes winters in Quebec.The ducks are bleeding money like a stuck pig. There is a team ripe for relocation in 2015. They can keep the name and we’ll take the team to Quebec City. Is hockey even relevant in Anaheim?

    Gagner 5’10. Hobbit like. IMO. Shouldn’t all NHLers be Penner like coke machines who have no desire to compete. The guy only shows up when the second season starts. At least Samwise is there giving you 100% during the year. I’ll take Sam as my 2cd line center. 4 points in 4 games. What more do we want? 8 every game?

    Galchenyuk 2 points tonight. Where is Crosby? Slowwww start.

    • Oilers89

      Gagner, Yak and Hemsky are all -3 and that’s okay with you? The question isn’t really whether Gagner tries hard or is starting to improve in different areas of this game – it’s really about him losing battles all over the ice and other centre’s dictating play against him….

      Sometimes life isn’t fair

  • DSF

    Gagner has only 1A at even strength and is -3.

    His GA/60 is 7.44 is just dreadful and the only forward on the team who is worse is the rookie Yakupov.

    Sample sizes are still very small but performances like that is what makes a team a loser.

    • Bonvie

      Yes Yakupov should be moved off Gagner’s wing, and should play with Horcoff, but at this point the Oilers need to run their top two lines against the other teams big guns. Gagner will have an adjustment period playing the Thornton’s and Marleau’s of the league but it will come.

  • Schultz is fun to watch. Coach Nelson appears to have drilled into the forwards that were down there to cover for him when he jumps.

    When hes on the ice with other lines it gets a tad tenuous as frankly the basic observational powers related to defence are absent n the second line and the third line was pathetically slow until maggy got thrown on there.

    As for gags…. any writer on here wanting a lot of comments can lob out a casually concerned article on him or whitney and get a small feeding frenzy on their obvious and at times appalling shortcomings.

    Meh…. it is what it is.

    Bring on the avs…. lets see which Oilers show up…. this time.

    They are, after all, the box of chocolates forrest talks about.

  • This how I see it unfolding folks.

    The Oilers don’t go after Getzlaf, they can’t afford to in the long run.

    Instead the Oilers draft 6’3 205lbs Sasha Barkov in the 6-8 spot just shy of the lottery selection.

    This gives the Oilers more options going forward, they can resign Gagner and buyout Horcoff or trade Gagner and keep Horcoff.

    The Preadtors will be looking to deal Shea Weber once the year ends, the Oilers will be in on this………sorry folks but Petry is part of this deal.

    With Klefbolm arriving the Oilers will be looking to unload a top 4, Petry is the guy here.

    Smid is signed, Whitney will be offered 1.5 over two years, he’s offended by the offer and is shown the door.

    The Oilers try and acquire Ryan Clowe.

    The Oilers trade for Ben Bishop.

    The Oilers try and acquire Bouwmeester who is bought out by the Flames.

    The Oilers trade Hemsky

    Eager is shown the door as with Hordichuk.

    Finally………The Oilers fire Tambellini, they move him into director of AHL operations.

    MacT become’s Oilers new GM and Schultz wins the Calder narrowly beating Yakupov.

  • I dont think you’re looking at dealing a lot of value going after a guy like Getzlaf. UFA this year with almost no desire to resign inAnaheim. I think the Oilers are going to give Dubey a 15 game tryout before they go for outside help in net. If Getzlaf is going to be dealt here look for a couple prospects in the package going back. Also I would trade Whitney to the Islanders for Visnovsky, he liked playing here and Whitney has been terrible.

    I think the team who wants Gagner is the blackhawks, they are still high on him and would love for him to be there. The only question is who they would be willing to give in return. Gagner intrigues me, he is a infamous slow starter but turns it on at years end. I wanna see what he can do in the playoffs before we give up in him. Getzlaf for Paajarvi, Hamilton, Gernat and a first rounder if not signed by March. Two 2nd rounders for Bishop in Ottawa. Whitney for Vishnovsky. Gagner for Sharp?

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Wow you need a reality check.

      If Vishnovsky liked it here why did he ask for a trade?

      33 goals and 36 assists for 17 goals and 25 assists? Not to mention the defensive attributes.

      Two 2nd rounders? For some unproven, untested goalie? Way to much.

      A 1st rounder? An Oilers 1st rounder no less? For Getzlaf? Who is 28? 29? Will be past his prime in 2-3 years, looks past his prime the last couple of years actually.

      Also when did the Blackhawks ever express serious interest in Gagner? Why would they even when they have Toews, Bolland, and Sharp?

      • Time Travelling Sean

        Ive read in a lot of rumor sites that the Hawks has shown interest in Gagner in recent years. After 6 points in 5 games I dont think Gagner is going anywhere soon. Ive never read anywhere that Visnovsky has ever asked for a trade out of Edmonton. I think conditional picks based on playoff performance and or contracr signing for Getzlaf would be a good bargaining chip. 2n rounders are usually the norm for goalie trades and with the Sens being high on Bishop its worth a shot. Better then a roster player, I also read that we have an extra 2nd rounder in this years draft to use in a parlay.