Justin Schultz is the first member of the current edition of the Edmonton Oilers to make this Top 100 list. That’s a sketchy proposition on a number of fronts for me, not the least of which is that he isn’t “my kind” of player and there’s every chance he could play himself right off it this season.
With 203 games in the books with the Oilers, Schultz is one of those polarizing players. A lot of people laud Schultz’s unquestionable offensive ability. Many others, like me, lament his decision-making, his lack of commitment to defensive play and to be engaged physically, even a little bit.
Justin Schultz #19
|NUMBER:||19||BIRTHDATE:||July 6, 1990 (AGE 25)|
|HEIGHT:||6′ 2″||BIRTHPLACE:||Kelowna, BC, Canada|
|WEIGHT:||193||DRAFTED:||ANA / 2008 NHL Entry Draft|
|SHOOTS:||Right||ROUND:||2nd (43rd overall|
BY THE NUMBERS
CAREER REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS
|2009-10||UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WCHA||43||6||16||22||12|
|2010-11||UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WCHA||41||18||29||47||28||9||0||3|
|2011-12||UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WCHA||37||16||28||44||12||7||0||0|
|2012-13||OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS-AHL||34||18||30||48||8||6||7||2||3||93||19.4|
CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
Schultz, entering his fourth NHL season with the Oilers at the age of 25, is never going to be a big banger or the kind of player who imposes his will physically on opponents. That’s just not part of his make-up. That hardly excludes him from being a solid NHLer. Lots of very good players aren’t blood-and-guts types. They find other ways to be effective.
That’s the challenge for Schultz. He has to become physically stronger – he has talked about working on that this off-season – so he can better engage opponents. He has to commit to expending as much energy in his own zone, if not more, as he does in jumping to the attack. Nothing burns fans more than seeing Schultz dash up ice like a house on fire, lose the puck and then glide back as opposing forwards turn it back the other way.
All that said, warts and all, Schultz has led Edmonton defensemen in points in all three of his seasons with 27, 33 and 31 at a time when there hasn’t been nearly enough offensive contribution from the back end. Schultz has what the Oilers lack. The trick is building on the good and losing the bad.
The arrival of Andrej Sekera and the emergence of Oscar Klefbom will mean some offensive help from the blue line. That will give coach Todd McLellan options and should allow Schultz to play fewer minutes at even strength than he has in his first three seasons.
I don’t know what Schultz’s top end will be, but if he can produce 30-35 points a season and become more reliable defensively, then No. 94 on this list might be way too low two or three years from now – assuming he gets an extension on the one-year deal he’s playing on.
If that commitment to close the gaps in his game is more talk than action this season, then he could play himself right out of the picture on a blue line that is slowly building some depth. Many players as talented Schultz have come and quickly gone because they didn’t put the work in.
This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.