Welcome to the first of what will be a month long look at potential first round candidates for the Leafs, assuming they hold onto their pick. The TLN writing crew will dissect the first couple of rounds and see who we can land on to help improve the Leafs prospect depth that has dwindled from the glory days of Marner, Nylander, Kapanen, and Matthews, but still isn’t too shabby with players like Robertson, Liljegren, Sandin, and Korshkov all close to being able to make an impact in the NHL. Our first player in the series is one that checks some boxes for Leafs fans, as he’s a right shooting, physical defenseman who already has NHL size.
Today we’ll look at Braden Schneider, a right handed defenseman from the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Schneider’s vitals are part of his selling point for many, as he’s 6’2, 210 lbs, and shoots rights. That checks a lot of boxes for Leafs fans who have worried about the undersized blueline, and the Leafs inability to find anyone who can slot in on the right side. Schneider being one of the older first year eligible players in the draft, turning 19 on September 20th, which can often be viewed as a drawback, but the additional maturity might mean that he’ll be closer to NHL ready than some of the other prospects eligible, and he’s already played 3 full seasons in the WHL.
As for his style of play, well, Schneider would fall more into the stay at home, physical defender category which is prone to raising red flags. There have been a number of first round picks that have failed to materialize with that label, players like Griffin Reinhart and Logan Stanley first come to mind, but from a Leafs perspective there seem to be a number of parallels to the selecting Luke Schenn a number of years back, thinking that he would be a top pairing RHD for years to come.
Where Schneider is a bit different from players like Schenn, Stanley, and Reinhart is that he’s a stronger skater, and if continues to improve there’s no reason that he could be a strong complimentary partner to a player like Sandin or Kokkonen somewhere down the line.
Defensively, Schneider is a strong decision maker, but he does come with some of the puck moving concerns that often apply to defensive defensemen. He might be a strong presence in his own zone and in the neutral zone, but moving the puck up ice is going to be something he’ll rely on his partner for, and short outlet passes might be all you get from Schneider.
|stats from pick224.com|
The fact that much of Schneider’s offense came on the power play probably points to him not being a 42 point player in the pro ranks. Quite simply he’s not going to see power play time outside of junior hockey.
More encouraging is the strong 5v5 goals for ratio, that came against top competition in the WHL. The concern with bigger players is one that does still need to be considered with Schneider, and that is whether or not his adult size playing against kids allows him to be incredibly dominant and does that disappear in pro hockey when everyone is his size. Schneider seems talented and smart enough to continue his success, but it’s difficult to place where exactly in a depth chart we’d place Schneider in few seasons. For all the talk about goaltending being voodoo, the real voodoo might be defensive defensemen, and finding the next Jake Muzzin is no easy task.
|ISS||Central Scouting||Elite Prospects||Bob McKenzie||Craig Button|
The rankings for Schneider seem to be all over the place but it seems highly likely that Schneider will be available when the Leafs pick. There is some issue that they might be reaching a bit by taking him at 15, but not a head scratcher by any means. It’s also entirely possible that if Schneider was a Leafs target that we could see Kyle Dubas continue with his practice of seeing if he could trade down a little for Schneider. The rankings that tend to focus on high end skill (Button and Elite Prospects) both are a bit more sour on Schneider, but the fact that both still list him as a first rounder may actually be a form of praise. While Schneider might not be as exciting a pick as someone like Nick Robertson, he’s a good fit with what Dubas selected in Rasmus Sandin, and a high end defensive prospect pool might be what we see from the Leafs in the near future.