The 2020 NHL Draft will be October 6 & 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames have a first round selection and will pick 19th overall. In advance of the draft, we’ll be looking at some contenders to be selected at 19th.
First up? A big steady defender from the Western Hockey League, Braden Schneider.
A 2016 Bantam Draft selection by the Brandon Wheat Kings, Schneider joined them the following season as a 16-year-old and quickly became one of their more reliable, if raw, defenders. The 6’2″, 205 pound kid immediately had positioning down, but gradually figured out how to play mean and physical.
Three seasons later, he’s amassed a body of work that’s made a lot of scouts in the WHL area excited about his potential. He’s a September birthday and one of the older first-time eligible prospects, but he’s also played the most high-level hockey of almost anybody in his class.
My press box pal Derek Neumeier wrote about Schneider’s game at Defending Big D:
But what makes Schneider a truly special shutdown defender is just how consistently, efficiently and matter-of-factly he goes about his business. Not only does he always look comfortable and composed defending (even on the penalty kill or defending a late lead), he also seems to enjoy doing it — this often isn’t the case, as a lot of young defenders are much more interested in jumping into the rush offensively, while the defensive work is seen as a chore.
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects offered a brief assessment in his final draft rankings:
A bit of a throw-back, two-way defender. Decent feet and smart outlets. Makes the safe play but can look lost in the offensive zone. Questionable whether he’ll play up the lineup in the NHL, but has a very safe floor.
FC Hockey’s Justin Froese included these notes in a game report:
Schneider may not be a defender who puts up eye popping numbers even in his third year in the league as Brandon’s top blue liner, but his game keeps on flourishing and he looks to be the most NHL ready player coming out of the West as a result. Schneider is a horse on the back end for Brandon, weeding out a lot of the inconsistencies and questions about his decision making from years past.
— 🐋 Joel Henderson 🥝 (@dathockeydoe) August 24, 2020
Schneider is a defender’s defender. He’s great at gaps. He’s great at using positioning and size to close off rushes. He’s smart and can be used in every situation because he rarely makes mistakes. He’s not flashy, but damn he’s good at the fundamentals, and he’s become more and more confident making plays with the puck.
Schneider had seven goals and 42 points in 60 games for the Wheaties this seasonn. He was 17th among all WHL defenders in points and led all first-year draft eligible defenders in scoring. He was 40th among all WHL blueliners in shots.
Here’s a snapshot of situational scoring from the 10 first-year draft eligible defenders with the most points:
|Aidan de la Gorgendiere||SSK||28||19||9||0|
Yeah, Schneider’s reliant on the power play for scoring. But for a guy that’s not overly flashy, he’s a pretty damn effective even strength offensive player. On a Wheaties team with a lot of smart offensive forwards, he tended to get more assists than goals (especially when compared to the other leading defenders).
Availability and fit
Let’s look at fit first: Schneider’s smart, reliable, physical and a right shot blueliner. Imagine him playing alongside Noah Hanifin or Juuso Valimaki for the next decade. Swoon. He fits a ton of the Flames’ immediate and long-term needs.
Will he be available at 19th overall? Maybe. Hockey Prospects has him ranked 11th, ISS has him 13th, Bob McKenzie has him 17th, FC Hockey has him 21st, Dobber Prospects has him 23rd and Craig Button 25th. Averaging those ranks out put him right around 18th or 19th overall.