Justin Schultz insists to NHL.com that it’s been tough adjusting to AHL competition, but it’s hard not to think about a huge future considering the fact that he’s tied* for the league scoring lead with a whopping 40 points in 28 games.
Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson is buying into those lofty thoughts. He even compared Schultz to Drew Doughty and Scott Niedermayer.
“He has parts of Niedermayer and one player he reminds me of is Drew Doughty,” Nelson said. “The NHL is a step higher, but I see him doing the same thing up there. Maybe not as explosive in his first year, but I see him contributing offensively. I see him playing a lot of minutes, just as he does here — and he plays about 30 minutes a game, handles it well.
“Is he capable of being a Scott Niedermayer? He’s very capable. I feel very comfortable in saying that.”
Wow. Here’s a requisite shot of Niedermayer via Getty:
To be fair to Nelson, Schultz has indeed been incredible. His 16 goals leave him just five short of the AHL record for rookie defensemen, with plenty of hockey to play.
Even opposing coaches such as Texas Stars bench boss Willie Desjardins has been wowed.
“The American League is a real good league and lots of time there is an adjustment period, but it seems like he missed the adjustment period,” Desjardins said. “He went right into it and has functioned at a real high level.”
Schultz has already drawn comparisons to Doughty, Niedermayer and Paul Coffey before his first NHL shift, but depending upon whom you ask, it might just be a matter of time – maybe even a work stoppage – before he proves himself worthy.
* He’s tied with Barons teammate Jordan Eberle.