2020 NHL Draft Profile: Braden Schneider

Braden SchneiderBrandon Wheat Kings

RHD, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

6’2″/209 lbs, 17.98 years old


Strengths

Fluid, powerful stride:

  • Schneider is reasonably mobile, able to take advantage of open ice in front of him and skate the puck forwards on occasion.
  • Long stride, generates plenty of power. Not the quickest feet, but he can reach a pretty impressive top speed when he has a good runway.
  • He can activate into the rush and provide a third or fourth option. He’s fast enough to move up ice with the forwards and can recover reasonably effectively when he does.

Good puckmover, can make strong outlets:

  • Schneider makes an excellent outlet pass and can impact the game in transition. He has good vision up ice and can make quick reads, identifying open teammates and even making the occasional stretch pass.
  • Schneider’s 6’2″ frame can be beneficial in transition. He’s able to absorb contact in the corners with the puck, using his body to protect the puck. There’s only a short list of WHLers with the mass to put Schneider through the boards, so he can take liberties with his body to maintain possession that smaller players can’t without having their lives flash before their eyes.

One of the better defensive players in the draft:

  • Schneider is an exceptional defensive player, capable of locking down just about every attacker that he goes up against. He’s very rarely slips up defensively– he’s always in position, he’s aggressive but picks his spots extremely well, and he channels opposing forwards to the outside nearly every time.
  • Very physical player, initiates contact with a forward at least once on every typical possession. Forces attackers into the corners and closes them off, creating puck battles and turnovers.
  • Plays aggressive neutral zone defence, stepping up at the blueline whenever he can to force uncontrolled entries or turnovers. Active stick and unafraid to throw a hit in those situations.

Shoot-first attitude and a decent shot:

  • Schneider is unafraid to shoot the puck. It’s his first instinct whenever he has space and a lane at the point, especially at even strength.
  • Averaged an unspectacular 1.80 shots/game, but he had six 4-shot games and a single 6-shot performance. Could improve his consistency as a volume shooter but he has games where he’s ripping the puck all night long.
  • Does well to get shots through from the point and generates decent power on his wristers.

Very well-rounded player:

  • Schneider has few weaknesses. He’s excellent defensively, reasonably mobile, and can activate into the offence on occasion to impact the game in all three zones. Decent powerplay quarterback too.
  • Very steady and reliable. Schneider is the type of player that can go up against top WHL matchups, shut down offensive players, and play big minutes.

Weaknesses

Average foot speed and unexceptional processing ability, NHL pace could be a problem:

  • Has above-average top speed and a powerful stride, but he can be a little sluggish to get going at some times. Will he be quick enough to create seperation from NHL forecheckers? I think he’ll need some improvement to get there.
  • The foundation of Schneider’s transitional game is his ability to make basic outlets before forecheckers bear down on him. Those outlets will be taken away quicker at the NHL level, so his ability to accelerate his own pace and find alternatives when necessary will define how well he translates to the pro game.

Very old for the draft:

  • Schneider was only five days away from being eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, so he has the benefit of an extra year of development under his belt.
  • Considering his age relative to his peers, it isn’t much of a surprise that Schneider is one of the most refined and mature defencemen in the draft.

The Numbers

Age GP PTS PTS/GP P1/GP
17.98 60 42 0.70 0.42

Schneider had decent but unspectacular production. He played big minutes for Brandon in a top-four defensive role and top unit powerplay minutes, but didn’t excel offensive in those minutes. That’s demonstrative of his style of play– he’s an excellent defensive player, but his offensive play doesn’t move the needle a whole lot. His even strength production is historically comparable to mid-tier prospects like Calen Addison, Cale Fleury, Brendan Guhle, and Noah Juulsen looking at one lense, but also in the range of players that blossomed offensively like Seth Jones and Shea Theodore with a more optimistic view. What seperates Schneider from those two players? Largely powerplay production– both Jones and Theodore were in the close vicinity of 0.25 powerplay primary points per game whereas Schneider was right on the dot of 0.15. Jones and Theodore have both become powerplay options for their NHL teams (playing 141 and 221 powerplay minutes, respectively), whereas I’m not confident projecting Schneider as much of a 5v4 option at the NHL level.

As this data from the brilliant Will Scouch illustrates, Schneider is a low-event, relatively quiet player. He has an excellent defensive game, keeping players to the outside and forcing shots from poor locations. But the same thing happens to his team’s offence when he’s on the ice– they struggle to attack the slot and are largely contained to low-danger chances. If this makes sense: Schneider doesn’t play a style that will win you games, but rather he plays a style that prevents his team from losing. He isn’t out there creating goals and outscoring the opposing team; he’s preventing them on both sides of the ice and keeping his team from being outscored. In an era where high-event hockey is the new wave, Schneider stands out as a more of a throwback defender.

Summary

Schneider has a very intriguing profile. Will he be a minute-munching, play-driving top-pairing defenceman? I don’t think so. But can he be an important, non-driving piece that can play in a team’s top-four? Absolutely. I don’t think his game is suited to drive a pairing on a consistent basis; he isn’t effective enough in transition to be the primary puckmover and I think he’ll be best when he has a partner to defer to. Put Schneider in a role where he’s expected to be a playdriver and I think he might struggle; place him somewhere where he can play to his strengths with a partner that can carry the load in the areas where he doesn’t excel and he’ll be a terrific asset. For Schneider, those strengths are his defensive play, dependability , and ability to act as an effective second option in the transition game. So play him alongside a more erratic, offensive-geared blueliner that can dominate the puck in transition and you’ll have formed an excellent all-around pairing that can play consistent minutes against good competition.

In a draft that’s quite weak on the blueline, Schneider should be drafted quite high– probably within the top twenty selections. The team that drafts him while praise his combination of size, stellar defensive play and mobility. He’s a modern take on the old-school shutdown defenceman: an exceptional defensive player with a very physical style, but also decent mobility and comfort on the breakout. He’s a low-event player– the type of player that can protect a lead and shut down opposing teams, but won’t be driving a whole lot of of offence. Schneider is a holding-pattern type of player– excellent at preserving a lead and maintaining the current state of the game, but not doing much to drive offence and put his team in a more advantageous situation. If a team has a need for that kind of reliable, shutdown player in their top-four, then by all means, Schneider will be a good pick and a useful asset. But if you’re looking for a player to drive the puck forwards and ultimately win you games, I would look elsewhere.

Featured Image Credit: Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

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