Photo Credit: Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds
Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma
Reid Schaefer has been a steady riser over the course of the season and has creeped into some people’s top 100. He scored 32 goals and had 58 points in 66 games this season after recording just two assists in 18 games last season. That sort of jump in production will put you on more people’s radars, but is it warranted? Over the course of the season, I’ve watched Schaefer develop and benefit from a full WHL season. Sometimes, there will be a lot to like, while other times, I barely notice him. With Schaefer, no two shifts are the same and it has taken more viewings than usual to get a good read on him as a player.
As I’ve watched Schaefer, I’ve been able to see glimpses of his full potential. I see a player that, if developed properly, could be a nice complementary winger for a team. He has the size and strength to be a power forward at the NHL level, after all. His skill set at present is very raw, however, so he’ll be a long-term project for whichever team drafts him. The question I keep coming back to is “will Schaefer be a consistent threat at the NHL level?” In this profile, I’ll be breaking down Schaefer’s game to paint a picture of the player that he is and the player that he could be.
D.O.B –September 21, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –214 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Schaefer’s Style of Play
Schaefer is built like a power forward and uses his size and strength to gain separation from defenders in the offensive zone. He was made for board battles and can keep the flow of the play moving if the puck gets trapped along the boards. A lot of the players that I’ve profiled so far this year have been smaller forwards that can turn the puck over. Schaefer is one of the few players that can set the tone physically and create space with strength as opposed to puck skills or skating.
Schaefer’s skating is above average for a player his size but not elite in any sense. He possesses the ability to get to top speed relatively quickly and his straight line speed is good enough to gain separation from defenders. I wouldn’t call him a quick skater, though. HIs top speed is fairly average, perhaps even below average, but he can cover more distance due to his size and leg strength.
Part of what can make Schaefer so dangerous is that he’s a powerful skater with the strength to shrug off any sort of pressure or check that comes his way. He can maintain puck possession in order to create offense, which is why I’d lean towards labeling him as a power forward. Schaefer gets pucks down low and can work from below the goal line to try and get the goaltender and defense to have blind spots. If he’s under pressure along the boards, he has the vision to get the puck to a teammate in order to continue the rush. Schaefer’s forechecking can be hit or miss, to me. There are times when he can drift and be a bit directionless in the offensive zone. He’ll wait for the play to come to him or hover around the middle of the ice without doing a whole lot to prevent a breakout. When he wants to get involved in the forecheck or a board battle, however, I see strength. He’s quick on the forecheck and can utilize his above average foot speed as well as his strength to knock players off of the puck and maintain possession for his team. Schaefer is at his best when he’s shooting the puck or utilizing his strength, after all. At 214 pounds, Schaefer is already stronger than most of the competition in the WHL. For him to take the next step, I’d like to see him be dominant along the boards. I’m starting to see that, but it needs to be consistent.
Schaefer’s biggest tool in the offensive zone, however, is his shot. He has a grade-A shot release that can beat any goaltender in the WHL. His shot is the complete package, too. It’s quick, accurate and powerful with a lightning fast release.
I mean, his shot is absurd. You don’t score 32 goals in your first full season in the WHL unless you can shoot incredibly well, and Schaefer can. With this shot, Schaefer can be absolutely lethal from the slot and is a player that can command attention in the offensive zone. Players will gravitate towards him in order to prevent him from scoring, and he has the hockey sense and vision to know the right time to either shoot or pass to an opponent. Offensively, Schaefer makes an impact and is an imposing presence. He’s a true power forward and a gifted scorer, and players like that usually command more attention due to how much space they can create in the offensive zone. There’s a real debate to be made that Schaefer is more of a sniper than a power forward. I’d entertain that argument since his shot is so quick and accurate, but I believe that the power in his game is going to allow for him to shine. He’s a scoring threat from anywhere, too. Take a look at this next clip, where he takes a slap shot from the point.
Finally, here’s an example of how Schaefer’s shot doesn’t drop off when he shoots from a distance.
Schaefer is also relied upon fairly heavily on the penalty kill, largely due to his reach and defensive awareness. It’s difficult to work around him due to how aggressive he is, and plays like this make him an annoyance on the penalty kill.
He’s in position and can disrupt plays along the boards, negating the attack for a lot of teams. Schaefer isn’t perfect in the defensive zone, but he’s one of the more responsible defensive forwards that I’ve watched this season. I would like to see him anticipate plays more often. He can get caught standing around or drifting aimlessly in the defensive zone on occasion, and that weakness will get exposed at higher levels of play. Defensively, Schaefer can play a gritty game that will wear down opposing forwards and make it difficult for offensive creation. It works at preventing plays along the boards as well. Teams are noticeably more cautious when Schaefer is on the ice because they know that they’ll have a 6’3″, 214-pound freight train coming at them if they take one step near the boards.
Where I start to doubt Schaefer’s true upside is when I watch him in the neutral zone and in transition. It’s not that he can’t keep up with his teammates, it’s that he’s constantly parallel to the puck. There’s nothing stopping a defender from taking the puck in those scenarios. He struggles with zone exits and rarely carries the puck into the offensive zone, which makes me doubt his effectiveness in the modern NHL. Back in 2006, we’d be talking about Schaefer as one of the top players in the draft, but in a game built on speed and transition play, I feel that Schaefer can get left behind. He won’t trail behind the play and make himself a drop pass option and he won’t move ahead of the play to try and push the puck into the offensive zone. Teams can pick up on a pass to him with relative ease since they won’t have any doubts as to where Schaefer will be.
Schaefer’s other glaring weak point is his play with the puck on his stick. Typically, Schaefer is at his best when he’s firing off a one-timer or looking to get pucks towards the net. When he looks to carry the puck in transition or make a pass to a teammate, his puck skills can falter. Schaefer can grip the stick a little too hard and bobble the puck when trying to carry it up ice, usually resulting in a turnover or a lengthy board battle that stalls momentum. When attempting passes to teammates, Schaefer’s timing can be off and his passes are typically inaccurate. Often, I’ll see Schaefer receive the puck and scan for his options, notice an opening and then hold onto the puck too long, turning it over in the process. He’ll have to make quicker decisions because he’ll only have less time to do so as the competition intensifies. Schaefer can occasionally show glimpses of elite puck skills and he has some creative dekes and dangles in his repertoire. The problem is that he is unable to execute on a consistent basis and usually winds up turning the puck over. That could improve over time, but his one on one battles are a giant toss up at the present.
The thing I struggle with Schaefer is that he knows what to do with the puck on his stick, but his execution is off. He sees players in high danger areas, and his hockey sense is above average, but when he goes to make the pass, it fizzles out. Again, this is something that can be worked on over time, but right now, I don’t see Schaefer as a playmaking threat. He has the first step down, which is the recognition of an open patch of ice to make a play to. If he can get the execution down, I’d be more certain of his NHL upside. Here’s an example of when Schaefer’s passing can be good. When I see plays like this, I’m more confident in his abilities.
Schaefer seems like a project that could yield some solid upside. Right now, I would say that his ceiling is that of a third line winger, while his floor is somewhere at the AHL level. He has the size, strength and goal scoring ability to find success in the pros, but his game is incredibly raw otherwise. His potential is intriguing, especially since he’s a good enough shooter to net at least 20 goals at the NHL level. What I keep coming back to is his neutral zone play, though. I feel that a lot of offense in the modern NHL comes from transition, and Schaefer lacks a dynamic element in the neutral zone. His puck carrying can, and likely will, improve, but until he becomes a threat in transition, those doubts will remain. Most teams will see Schaefer’s size and skill as something they can build on, and they’re right. Most, if not all, of the flaws in his game are teachable and can be developed over time. With the right development staff, Schaefer could grow into an NHL player.
Now, where would I rank Schaefer? Right now, I’d put him around the 3rd-4th round range. There are other players that I like more than him and that I feel more certain of, but I could see teams going with a “safer” pick in Schaefer. For me, it boils down to the fact that Schaefer was six days removed from being eligible for last year’s draft and the fact that he’s very raw. I’m looking at his development path in a similar way to Carolina Hurricanes prospect Blake Murray. Schaefer plays a bit more of a heavier game than Murray, but both are natural goal scorers with a gritty side. Murray’s path obviously involved an interruption and a very limited schedule, just as Schaefer’s did, so they’re both a little more raw than they normally would be. Murray spent this past season in the ECHL and will likely transition to the AHL next season, and I could see Schaefer taking a similar path. Schaefer has, in my eyes, a five year timeline. He needs to finish his CHL career and spend, at minimum, three seasons in the minors before he becomes a full time NHL player. At the end of that timeline, I could see Schaefer stepping into a third line role and becoming a strong goal scoring power forward.
Edit: after watching more of Schaefer’s games, I feel more comfortable with putting him in the mid to late second round. Schaefer has been a dominant presence in these playoffs, something that I wasn’t seeing from him all that often during the regular season. Seeing Schaefer play a a higher level has given me more confidence in both his upside and overall projectability. He’s using his speed and big frame more effectively than he ever has, truly taking over shifts and wreaking havoc in both the neutral and offensive zones. I’m standing by my opinion that Schaefer is likely a third line forward with power play upside, though. It’s been a great playoffs, but I still don’t see the truly dynamic skills that I see in players that I’ve labeled as potential top six forwards.
Overall, I see Schaefer’s potential. He’s not the type of player that I’d bang the table for on draft day, but he’s a player that I would probably like to draft in the middle rounds. At that point in the draft, the amount of players with his potential thins out, and you’re left with the task of determining which players are more likely to reach that potential. With Schaefer’s size, strength, shot and defensive play, it’s likely that he plays NHL games. Plus, there’s the fact that a lot of his flaws are teachable. It’s nearly impossible to teach a player’s hockey sense or vision, but it’s easier to improve their execution on passes and skating.
April 30, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Matthew Somma. If you would like to follow Matt on Twitter, his handle is @Mattsomma12.
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