Editor’s note: Vegas finally has a roster. It’s time to get excited. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing you to these new Golden Knights players.
The Washington Capitals made other notable names available during the expansion draft, but perhaps none better than who the Vegas Golden Knights selected, defenceman Nate Schmidt. Here’s a look at the St. Cloud, Minnesota native and what he brings to the table.
Schmidt, 25, is a 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenceman who has played 200 games in his career. Hockey's Future called Schmidt’s game solid, yet unspectacular. They go on to say he does the little things, controlling gaps and isolating the opposition away from the net.
"He is not physical by any sense of the imagination, but will play the body when necessary. Schmidt is a smooth skater and shows strong offensive tools, though does not necessarily qualify as a "puck-moving" defenceman."
It may have been a fair assessment in 2015-16. Schmidt’s game has grown.
His analytics and 5-on-5 results are fantastic. He creates strong puck possession for his team, uses his skills defensively to limit scoring chances and goals, and has good instincts on getting the puck out of the zone. Schmidt is effective on the breakout, using his skills to start the counter-attack through the neutral zone.
His point totals aren’t eye popping (17 points in 60 games last season). But you can’t ask more from a defenceman that drives possessions and limits scoring chances.
Numbers, numbers and numbers
Schmidt’s possession numbers are good. He has a 53.52 percent CF% (Corsi For Percentage) which sits 21st in the league. He rates 49th among league defenders in shot attempts generated per hour with 57.45, while being 14th in limiting shot attempts per hour 49.90. A product of his solid defensive play and great counter-attack ability.
His on-ice results are fantastic. Schmidt boasted the highest goals for percentage in the league at 65.6 percent last year, being on the ice for 42 goals and 22 against.
When Karl Alzner was forced to leave Washington’s lineup due to injury after Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Schmidt joined John Carlson and put up a 58.57 CF percentage in the four games that followed, being on the ice for five goals and gave up one (83.33 GF%).
The Schmidt-Carlson pairing, when facing Auston Matthews, compiled a 57.14 CF percentage in the final three games of the series. When he was added to the Capitals defence the series shifted in Washington’s favour.
The numbers are daunting, but they suggest what I’ve already said. He’s a puck-moving defenceman who limits teams well and generates positive results.
Don't get it twisted, though. This was an overall positive review of Schmidt, his analytics are elite, but he’s not an elite defenceman. Most likely he's a guy who has been used in a bottom pairing role and the numbers suggest he is dominant as a third pairing player. He should get a bigger role in Vegas, a second pairing role.
But if all he is is a third-pair guy, the Golden Knights may have gotten one of the best third-pair guys in the game.
That's not nothing.
Numbers from puckalytics and hockeyanalysis.com. Minimum of 750 minutes played.