a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

01/29/12 Justin Schultz A Number One Defender?

Back in July I wrote that "unless a trade materializes out of left field, it appears that the Oilers will have to develop a number one defenseman in-house." Justin Schultz looks like he could be their man.

In the article referenced above, my criteria for a number one defender were as follows: a rearguard who could play in every situation and play twenty-three or more minutes per night. At this moment, Schultz is averaging 23:18 in ice time over his first five games (tops on the team). But there's more.

Predictably, Schultz is ranked third on the Oilers in powerplay ice time per game at 5:04 per night, but perhaps less predictable is the fact that he has averaged 1:23 of shorthanded ice time. It's clear that the offensive side is still heavily accented in his game, but there are signs of completeness that have been an unexpected surprise.

After four games Schultz was fourth on the team in even strength Relative Corsi, and he had 54.8% offensive zone finishes to 53.3% offensive zone starts. In other words: he's not only eating up a ton of even strength ice time, he's also keeping his head above water.

Schultz is 13th among all NHL defensemen in total powerplay ice time and has produced 2-2-4 (tied for second among all league defenders and fourth among all players). Almost as important? He has yet to be on the ice for a powerplay goal against.

I've bet against Schultz before and been pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was. One would think that it's probably unlikely that he'll continue to score at a point-per-game clip, but just as impressive has been the way he has conducted himself in games, as well as his assertiveness - especially for a rookie. He's averaging 3.2 shots per game, which is a sign of how well he has adjusted early on.

The Oilers may not have long to wait for their number one defender. In fact, he may already be here.

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