In his first full season in Pittsburgh, Schultz exploded for career highs in goals (12), assists (39) and power-play points (20). With numbers like those, it's easy to see why team brass granted him a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension this offseason. The biggest question facing the mobile blueliner is how he'll be utilized on the power play with Kris Letang targeting an Opening Night return from neck surgery. Traditionally, coach Mike Sullivan has utilized just one defenseman on the first unit, which may press Schultz into the secondary group. Without the benefit of lining up with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the 27-year-old is at risk of watching his offensive production come spiraling back to earth. However, Letang’s constant battle with the injury bug is worth monitoring throughout the season, as it’s clear how good Schultz can be with an expanded role -- not just on the power play, but also at even strength. That said, owners shouldn't pay up with the expectation of another 50-point campaign, but 40-plus does seem realistic.
Schultz was not given a qualifying offer by the Penguins due to cost constraints, yet the team ended up re-signing him to an affordable one-year deal worth $1.4 million. He played a lot better after moving away from the spotlight in Edmonton, and with less pressure and more structure to work with, Schultz bagged eight points in 18 games with the Penguins in the regular season of 2015-16, including a plus-7 rating after being one of the league’s worst plus-minus players in previous years. As a second power-play option, Schultz has some upside with the talent around him, but he’s still got a lot to prove before he’s considered a top-four defenseman.
Schultz clearly has talent. But he has really struggled the last two seasons -- he just isn’t the guy (yet anyway) to carry the blue line of an NHL team. The addition of Andrej Sekera should take off some of the pressure, but it’s do-or-die time for Schultz. He’s on a one-year deal and will be either a foundational piece for the Oilers or begging another team to take him in next summer. New coach Todd McLellan will bring structure to the Oilers, and there’s hope he can finally bring out the best in Schultz. If that ends up happening, expect Schultz to hold down a role on the top power-play unit and come through with a career year.
Schultz was a bit of a disappointment for the Oilers last season, but that came as no surprise -- the grind of an 82-game schedule drained the poor guy. He struggled alongside Andrew Ference last season, so watch for the team to try him with Nikita Nikitin both at even-strength and on the top power-play unit. And with the Oilers' wealth of offensive talent, Schultz is sure to put up points. While he's a risk as your top defender, Schultz has a decent shot at delivering top-30 numbers.
Schultz was a gift from above last season for Edmonton. He signed with the Oilers after being unable to come to an agreement with the Ducks and immediately provided the team with an offensive presence on the blue line that they hadn't seen since Paul Coffey. Now, he did admit he hit the wall at midseason, but that will change this year now that he knows what it's like to play in the NHL. And one has to think his second season could produce 12 to 15 goals and as many as 50 points. Sweet.
The Oilers may have drafted Nail Yakupov with the top pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, but signing Justin Schultz must have felt like they hit the lottery again. Schultz was considered by most to be the best free agent defenseman after Ryan Suter and his signing with Edmonton was a blessing for the team. He is a big, puck-moving blueliner who will be given every shot to make the team out of training camp and is their cornerstone defenseman of the future.
Schultz will return to Wisconsin for junior year but is already one of the better defense prospects in the game. He's even a darkhorse candidate to win the Hobey Baker Award, though it's frequently difficult for a defenseman to do so.
Schultz is another defenseman who is very offensive-minded. He has the fantastic ability to know when to join the play, but he also needs to focus more on his defensive play in his own zone