“You get what you pay for” is a maxim that is just as true in hockey as it is in real life.
With regards to prospects, the best are rarely free. High draft picks have high value on the trade market, of course. The draft picks 217 players, and then only around 20% make the NHL on at least a semi regular basis. Even the ones teams pay for aren’t always that good, but imagine what that says about those that don’t get drafted.
Good prospects do go undrafted, that much is true, but given the larger general pool of undrafted players who never made it versus the ones who did, undrafted stars are in an extremely tiny minority. Teams screw up and overlook players for silly reasons, but there’s almost always a few other similar players that never made it either. It’s just extremely hard to find a good prospect for no cost.
Which brings us to Nick Schneider, a prospect the Flames found for free. He’s unfortunately proof positive of that last paragraph.
Schneider has perhaps one of the oddest paths to the NHL. Undrafted in his first year of eligibility, he found his way to Flames training camp in 2015. That’s not that abnormal, as NHL teams will often invite junior goalies to balance out the numbers, but what was abnormal was him leaving camp with an ELC. Despite some occasional moments of brilliance, Schneider’s WHL numbers weren’t really convincing. The hope was that the Flames had found a diamond in the rough who could be solid goalie depth in a few years’ time. Given that their goalie depth was limited to Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald, it wasn’t that bad of an idea.
His 2015-16 was promising, as he more or less had similar results but in a greatly expanded role. As a developing goalie, that’s kind of all you could ask for. Schneider really appeared to have a breakthrough in 2016-17, where he began the year off hot, posting some great games in the 0.915-0.930 SV% range and held onto the WHL’s winningest record for a few months (finished fourth in wins when it was all said and done). However, he cratered, and eventually finished the year with a 0.886 SV%, 10 points down from the season before.
His season began with a trade to the hometown Calgary Hitmen, as the Medicine Hat Tigers were out of room for overagers. That was probably not a good sign, as the Tigers were a bubble playoff team and the Hitmen were not. But the Hitmen really needed a goalie, and if it meant more playing time for Schneider, the Flames (who just so happen to also own the Hitmen) were happy with it.
And accordingly, Schneider played a lot. He started 61 out of a possible 72 games, in fact. That’s a lot of hockey to play. The Hitmen, predictably not very good, did not do Schneider any favours, and did not make the playoffs. That left Schneider to go to the AHL, where he allowed one goal on five shots in just a period of action, relieving David Rittich.
|GP||MIN||SV%||SA||GA||SV% rank (/37)||SA rank||GA rank|
It’s always a concern when the only statistical category someone leads in is “games played.”
And that’s pretty much all Schneider did this season: play. Did he play well? Not at all. If we place 0.915 SV% as a benchmark for average, he only crossed that line 19 times. He had 18 appearances where he fell below 0.850, which is an absolutely putrid performance. Everything in between those two numbers (34 times) are somewhere between “putrid” and “average,” which is where Schneider fell most of the time.
Among qualified goalies (600 shots, assuming 30 shots a game x 20 games played), Schneider ranks near the bottom for save percentage, and dead last in goals allowed. The goals allowed stat is a bit unfair, given that Schneider also played more than any other goalie in the WHL (61 starts) and saw more shots head his way in total, but the three goalies ahead of him in regards to shot workload all posted a SV% that was at least 0.02 greater than Schneider’s.
His 10-game rolling average SV% (i.e: a summation of how good he was in 10-game bursts) only creeped up above .900 once. Having a SV% of .900 is generally “stay away” territory for goalies at the CHL level. Getting over that hump once and then never getting close again is very, very concerning. Schneider was poor, and consistently poor. There’s really no other way to cut it.
He can’t play in the CHL anymore, so he’s likely headed to the ECHL. Given that there’s one spot available in Calgary, everyone is getting a promotion, and it would be shocking if he didn’t wind up somewhere in the org (they would have seven goalies in the pro ranks if they sign another backup. Does anyone know if the Flames have a Federal Hockey League affiliate?). He’ll likely split starting duties with Mason McDonald, and will likely take over the Kansas City crease after McDonald’s contract expires next year.
But that’s likely his peak during his time with the Flames organization. An honest review of his junior career reveals that he’s never been any good except for eight games in his rookie season after being traded to the Tigers. Besides that, nothing worth noting.
The decision to sign Schneider is just as confusing now as it was when it happened. His performances have been extremely weak since he debuted in the WHL, and he hasn’t made much progress since being signed. In fact, his SV% numbers have actually gone down on a season by season basis, and by a dramatic 0.013 (about an extra goal every two games) at that. The Flames tried to get him a lot of play to hope he improved, and he actually went backwards.
So there’s basically a lot of work to do to get him even ready for the AHL level. It’s unlikely the Flames get that done in the two years remaining on Schneider’s contract, but I guess life can be surprising sometimes. That’s pretty much his best hope.