I think it’s safe to say that Nick Schneider’s 2015-16 season came as a surprise to a lot of people.
After being passed over in the 2015 NHL Draft, Schneider came into Calgary Flames rookie camp as an extra body. Then a few injuries here and there kept Schneider around long enough to impress Flames management to earn an entry-level contract.
He began the season in an NHL camp. He ended the season as the starting goalie of an American Hockey League team (at 18 years old). In between, he put together a pretty solid Western Hockey League season.
Based on the moves that Medicine Hat made with their personnel, it seems that their plan was to use a veteran goalie to push Schneider to another level. He spent 2014-15 as the back-up to Marek Langhamer, and the Tigers brought in Evan Johnson as the staking horse for 2015-16.
Johnson struggled and Everett’s Austin Lotz became available on overage waivers, so the Tigers jumped on him after the first month. Six games later Lotz was out for the season, so the Tigers traded for former Hitmen goalie Mack Shields in November. Schneider’s veteran partners received a lot of the team’s starts early on, but as Schneider seemed to improve and get pushed by the staking horses, he got a larger proportion of the team’s starts.
Arguably Schneider’s best stretch of play was in February and March, where he went 9-8-0 and dragged the Tigers into a tie for the final playoff spot with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Tigers aren’t exactly a high-octane offensive team, and Schneider regularly played back-to-back games and even played a crazy four games in five nights stretch, winning three of them. He got the Tigers to the tie-breaker game, and he lost, but it took a lot to get him to that one game “do or die” scenario, and I’m sure he learned a ton about his game as a result.
Once the Tigers were eliminated, he was reassigned to Stockton – where Kevin Poulin and Kent Simpson were both injured. And so Schneider played nine AHL contests as an 18-year-old. He was basically as good as he was in the WHL, in that he went 4-5-0 and had similar consistency issues while facing grown-ass men with grown-ass offensive talent. He faced a ton of shots and had a .876 save percentage, which was only slightly worse than his .896 WHL percentage.
He was 18, gave the Heat some much-needed goaltending stability as they chased a playoff spot, and he didn’t embarrass himself. That’s about as productive a pro stint as you could hope for from a player that was overlooked in the NHL draft the year prior.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Here’s a table of his WHL regular season, with the tie-breaker game included.
Granted, Schneider regularly faces a lot of shots – 10 times he faced 40+ and 32 times he faced 30+ – but he’s got to get his consistency under control, because it’s tough for an offensively-starved team to win games when their goalie regularly gives up four or more goals.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Schneider turns 19 in July and has a full season left before his NHL contract kicks in with the 2017-18 season. With young Rylan Rommelaere as his backup next season in Medicine Hat, expect Schneider to play a ton again.
The hope is that he can reign in some of his consistency issues and become a reliably strong starter in the WHL.