Devils Draft Series: Braden Schneider, Physical Defensive Defenseman

Braden Schneider is the strongest defenseman in this draft. (Photo by: Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL)

Profile

Braden Schneider is an 18-year-old right-handed defenseman. Given his birthday of Sept. 20, he would have been a 2019 NHL Draft entrant if he was only a day or two older. So, he is one of, if not, the oldest player in this draft.

Schneider has tremendous size, as he is listed as 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds. The Canadian has played his whole junior hockey career in his home country, most recently in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He was shown a ton of respect in the final 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Rankings, coming in at ninth among North American skaters.

The Statistics

Schneider began his junior hockey career in the Saskatchewan Hockey League. He played two years in the under-15 league, totaling 57 games and 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists). He moved to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League for parts of two seasons, where he played 37 games and totaled 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists).

Schneider played his first, full season in the WHL as a 16-year-old during the 2017-18 season. He played in 66 games, totaling one goal and 21 assists as well as a plus-10 rating. It’s worth noting the Wheat Kings went to the quarterfinals of the playoffs that season, as well. The following season, he played 58 games and totaled 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) and a plus-13 rating (highest on the team). As Schneider took a step forward in terms of playikng time, the Wheat Kings took a step back that season, missing the playoffs.

Since Schneider is extremely old for this draft class, he got three full seasons at the WHL level. This season, he led the Wheat Kings to a 35-22-6 record before play came to a halt. As the team’s alternate captain (for the second season in a row) he played in 60 games, tallying 42 points (seven goals, 35 assists) and a plus-nine rating. A deeper dive into these 42 points shows a surprising reliance on the power play (20 points), as well as a reliance on secondary assists.

Schneider represented his country on two different occasions. At the under-17 tournament, he captained Team Canada through six games. And in the 2018 under-18 tournament, he played seven games, totaling three points and a plus-nine rating.

Schneider’s Scouting Report

Strengths

Schneider’s game is built around his physicality and strength. He is extremely strong and is evident in his board play, ability to lay powerful hits, and presence around the net. Schneider does his best work below his own goal line along the boards, as he also has the intelligence to pair with his strength to excel in this area. He is a bully in front of his own net, as not only does he do a good job of clearing prospective screeners, but he also is a great shot blocker with his large frame. This ability also makes him great on the penalty kill.

Schneider – at the WHL level – does a good job in one-on-one battles. He controls opponents with his large reach and body, forcing them to the outside where they are not a threat. He works to funnel players down along the boards to behind the goal line where, as mentioned above, he does his best work. 

Overall, Schneider’s game is extremely mature for his age. And this has a lot to do with the three seasons of WHL hockey he has under his belt. Being older than most enabled him to get this experience in a league that has one of the strongest overall defensive structures of any junior hockey league.

Weaknesses

Being an extremely mature player does have its limits, and for Schneider, it comes in the form of his ceiling. He does not have a ton of upside and ability to grow, thus the hampered ceiling. The team that drafts him is going to know exactly what they are getting, as Schneider’s play is not going to grow much outside what it already is.

Distinct areas of his play that need work come in the form of skating, as well as his overall offensive game. His skating is decent, but the distinct areas that need work are his agility and overall mobility. Schneider has no issues moving north and south; rather he has trouble moving side-to-side with fluidity. And for a defenseman, this is important and in return overalls his effectiveness at the offensive point. 

Offensively, his stickhandling and puck skills are pretty subpar. He will not be able to create much of anything for himself offensively and is just another reason why his offensive game is not where it needs to be. His shot is another area that needs improvement. For a strong, big guy it does not have the power it should, which is a little confusing. Hopefully, with the right coaching, this can be improved because the strength is certainly there.

Projection

Schneider is a very projectable player, given his mature game. He has three years of WHL play under his belt. For this reason, he is the most NHL-ready defenseman in this draft. However, he also has the most limited ceiling of any prospective, first-round draft pick this year, which is why scouts are either really high or low on him.

Schneider is going to translate as a mid-pairing, stay-at-home defensive defenseman with an innate ability as a penalty killer. Drafting him is going to come down to if a team is going to want a player who is basically a guaranteed NHLer but does not provide much excitement. Schneider will be one of the safest picks in the first round.

As for where to expect Schneider to be drafted, with so many differing opinions on this question – not his projectability as a player – expect him to be off the board right in the middle of round one. Specifically, somewhere between picks 14-18. 

Fit With the Devils

If you have listened to our podcast, Devils Army Cast (see below), you by now know I am extremely against the idea of the New Jersey Devils drafting a defenseman early. If the Devils wish to go that route, it needs to be with the team’s last first-rounder (the Vancouver pick). The forward depth in this draft is just too good.

With that said, a stay-at-home and extremely tough defenseman is something the Devils have been lacking for a while now. I’d still prefer Kaiden Guhle – who brings almost as much on the defensive end and a lot more offensively than Schneider – but Schneider would also be a good option.

Ranking of Evaluated Prospects

1. Alexis Lafrenière (06/09/2020)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

7. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

8. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Kaiden Guhle (05/31/2020)

18. Braden Schneider (Today)

19. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

20. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

21. Jacob Perreault (05/26/2020)

22. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)

23. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)

24. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

25. Jan Mysak (06/02/2020)

26. William Wallinder (05/23/2020)

27. John-Jason Peterka (05/28/2020)

28. Roni Hirvonen (06/05/2020)

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