Photo Credit: Justin Oertel / Brandon Wheat Kings
Braden Schneider has been on prospect watchers’ radars for almost three years now. And for good reason. After being picked 12th overall in the WHL bantam draft, the man from the heart of the Canadian prairies stepped right into the Brandon Wheat Kings line-up. He led all 2020 draft eligible defensemen in points at 16, posting 22 in 66 games. Since then he has improved as a player in each of the two subsequent seasons, posting 42 points in just 60 games this year. Alongside his WHL success he has been a rock for the Canadian junior teams.
D.O.B – September 20, 2001
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2020
Weight –209 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right
Schneider’s Style Of Play
But just what is it that makes the Prince Albert product a potential first round pick? Well, that is easy to see within just one shift of watching him. He has all the fundamentals needed to be a modern-day NHL defenseman, while also having old-school snarl. Schneider skates very well, being strong on his skates, agile, and also having a good stride that means he rarely loses a race to a loose puck or gets out of position. This, combined with good gap-work and an astute defensive IQ, mean that he can be a real challenge to enter the zone against.
Even if a player manages to get past him and to the boards to start a cycle, his big frame and love of physical contact means that forwards have to have their head on a swivel not to end up as road-kill. It is a pleasure to see Schneider control his gap before dipping a shoulder and rubbing a winger out along the boards just as they get into the zone and think they have the edge on him.
Schneider is not just a player who excels without the puck though. He has a solid core skill-set when it comes to moving the puck the other way. He is a crisp passer who outlets well, and can also skate out of the zone if needed. Additionally, he can jump into the rush, and is a good judge of when to pinch on a play. He has a big slap-shot as well when he gets into position to unleash it.
While naturally the above is enough to get both those who long for the 1990s back, as well as those who value out-lets and blue-line defense, both salivating, Schneider is not without his issues. Despite having a good gap and IQ, Schneider’s predilection for taking the body means he takes himself out of plays often. It is no use being good around your net and having a good gap when you are lying on top of a player with their team 2v1 behind you.
However, the main reason he is not a sure-fire top 20 or so pick? It is difficult at times to see exactly where the upside is to make him more than a solid second pairing defenseman. He struggles to be creative in the offensive zone, and while he can get up into the rush plays can die on his stick when there. On the cycle he generally does little more than facilitate the play of others, rarely manages to contribute to a play unless at the point, and his hands are no more than average with the puck on his stick.
Still, that skill-set is nothing to sniff at, and can be very valuable in the modern NHL, especially considering he is a righty as the league goes more and more towards balancing handedness on defensive pairings. While his upside might not be as high as the majority of potential first rounders he could certainly be a good pick-up towards the end of the first round, and maybe a steal if he somehow falls into the second, as unlikely as that is.
Braydon Coburn, LHD, Tampa Bay Lightning
While Coburn is a lefty and not as physical as Schneider, they have several similarities to their game. Both are intuitive defensive players with great skating, who utilise their physical advantages well. Like the Tampa Bay blue-liner, Schneider moves the puck well and has a big shot, but lacks high-end skill. Both are also generally consigned to the blue-line in the offensive zone. It is easy to forget that when Coburn was younger he was a legitimate number three defenseman who put up 25-30 points, and that seems a likely outcome for Schneider if he continues to develop.
Stats from EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alexander on Twitter, his handle is @Avappleyard.
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