ESPN came out with their top 50 NHL defensemen ranking and the Edmonton Oilers have one of their own who made the list. Justin Schultz is ranked in a tie for 40th spot with Pittsburgh Penguins d-man Paul Martin and considering he’s only been in the league for one year, albeit an abbreviate one, this should be an honor for Schultz.
The list was compiled by the “experts” as ESPN put it and they ranked the defensemen on a scale from 1 to 10 based on their “current quality of play”. Schultz finished with a rating of 6.33 to put him in the top 40.
It’s no surprise to see Zdeno Chara, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith occupy the top four spots, although the order could be debatable. For Schultz to be ranked as high as he is, is a true testament to how good many believe he is, let alone how great he could become.
Only one other blue liner made the list that has one year of NHL experience; Jonas Brodin of the Minnesota Wild who came in at number 32 with a 6.71 rating. Having played along side Suter for part of last season would have helped any rookie defenseman, but in all honesty Brodin is loaded with talent and deserves to be ranked as high as he is.
Back to Schultz. He and Brodin are the only two on the list that are coming off their rookie year which again speaks volumes of what the perceived experts think of him.
On the heels of a stellar rookie campaign that saw the then 22-year old put up 27 points in 48 games (8 of which were goals), Schultz has the media raving about his ability to create a scoring chance out of what appears to be a dead play. His powerplay wisdom helped propel the Oilers to one of the best man advantages in the league and his smooth skating ability has flashes of Paul Coffey in it. All reasons to get excited but this is nothing new for Oilers fans who witnessed first hand what the rage was all about when Schultz became a free-agent.
Considered to be a part of the core of young players to build around, Schultz will be counted on to have an even bigger and better in Edmonton this season. It’s not unreasonable to think that he can’t put up over 40 points and improve his plus/minus from a disappointing minus-17 last season to a positive this year. Numbers that would surely boost his rating at this time next year.
Is it too much of a stretch to think that in a year or two Schultz could move into the top 25? For now, we’ll have to be pleased with a top 50 ranking. Leave your comments below and let’s debate.