Lots of positive chatter about Justin Schultz after his weekend debut in Cleveland. Most of us are excited about his ability to make good things happen with the puck, but what about play away from it?
The Oilers have had some success with NCAA defensemen in recent times, with Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry being examples. However, in the not too distant past Tom Poti drove fans to distraction with his finesse play and lack of physical edge.
Years ago–this was when my son was quite young–I asked John Short about Poti. I was looking for a good answer for my son when he asked me the next time about Oiler fans booing Poti.
Short said something along the lines of this: guys like Tom Poti come up through US high school and then NCAA and never really have to worry about the puck. When they want it, they go get it–they are the best player on the ice at any given time.
John felt that Poti was lost without the puck because he’d never really played without it, and he was learning about positioning and gap coverage and the back door play at the NHL level.
I don’t think we’ll see that with Schultz. His NCAA career came after his BCJHL career and that level would have given him a clue about the defensive end of the rink. Still, it is a real positive to read about his defensive play and to see his ability to think on his feet.
A guy who can play like he can at one end of the rink often means a nightmare at the other end. It looks like Justin Schultz is an exception.