Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz’s AHL coach is “very comfortable” making Scott Niedermayer comparisons


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:

source: Getty Images

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.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?