When the Golden Knights hit the ice again for real on October 2nd, there will be a rookie defenseman wearing steel grey and gold.
With the departure of Colin Miller, George McPhee confirmed as much and the candidates to win the job are Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, Jake Bischoff, and Jimmy Schuldt.
Schuldt was the only one of the five who played for the Golden Knights in 2018-19. Of course, it was just one game, but Schuldt’s impact was certainly felt and it was his first chance to stake claim to the job he likely has the inside track to winning.
For those who’ve forgotten, Schuldt was an undrafted free agent who signed out of St. Cloud State following his senior year. He was a Hobey Baker finalist in each of his final two seasons and put up 118 points and 38 goals over his 156 games as a Husky (the most ever by a defenseman in program history). Schuldt was highly sought after as 30 of the 31 teams reportedly offered him a contract out of college.
Schuldt’s one and only game was the final game of the regular season at the Staples Center in LA against the Kings. He played 21:03, tallied one assist, recorded one shot, and racked up a -1 rating. He took 22 total shifts in that game and recently I went back and watched them all.
Obviously, one game, especially a player’s first career NHL game, is not enough to judge a player, but for Schuldt, it’s all we’ve got and Gerard Gallant was not shy to use him.
Schuldt’s offensive game is what stuck out most over the course of his 22 shifts making positive offensive plays on more than half of them. It was the other end that was a little shaky. Let’s start with the good though.
The most memorable play was the one that put him on the scoresheet. A pass from the high slot perfectly onto Valentin Zykov’s stick set up an easy tap in goal and the first point of Schuldt’s NHL career.
The pass is beautiful, but the pinch before it might be just as influential on the play. Schuldt reads the rebound and jumps up the ice to win to the puck and keep it alive. His pinching ability on the game was excellent only failing to win the puck once.
His offensive positioning was a little more aggressive than the Golden Knights blueliners usually use though. A number of times he was caught too low in the zone and the defenseman was able to either pass or chip the puck around/over him to start breakouts. None of them led to goals, but there were a few moments in which a transition break was started and Schuldt was left behind.
His next best play came on a defensive zone draw which was one cleanly to him.
Schuldt nicely loses the attacker before pushing the puck up to Brandon Pirri. Then, continuing through the play, Schuldt collects a turnover and knocks a nice little backhand pass to Pirri creating a scoring chance. That’s the exact type of play Gallant and Ryan McGill like to see out of Golden Knights defenseman. Schuldt moves the puck quickly and safely to start a transition chance and creates an extra option in the offensive zone when then puck is turned over. Very Nate Schmidt esque.