In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens opted to strengthen and replenish their prospects on the left side of their defence corps. If the Habs opt to add right-handed defencemen in the 2020 draft, Braden Schneider would be a solid option and may be available at pick number 16. Schneider plays for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings where he had seven goals and thirty-five assists for a total of forty-two points in sixty games last season, respectable offensive numbers. However, his primary strengths are most likely to be in the defensive end at the NHL level.
DOB: September 20, 2001
CSB (North American): 9
Elite Prospects: 34
Hockey Prospect: 11
Future Considerations: 21
The Hockey News: 22
TSN (Button): 15
TSN (McKenzie): 17
The Athletic (Pronman): 23
Schneider is one of the older draft-eligible players this season, having missed the eligibility date for last year’s draft by less than a week. While it is an open question how his offensive skills will translate to the NHL level, it is in the defensive end that Schneider excels. Schneider is strong and plays a very impressive, heavy physical game. He rarely loses puck battles along the boards and in the corners. The 18-year-old defender (soon to be 19 as of this weekend) has a very long and active stick that enables him to disrupt passing lanes and break up plays consistently. His gap control is very solid, even outstanding.
With these defensive strengths and some strong offensive numbers in the WHL, one may wonder why he is not rated consistently in the top half of the first round. The answer: There are concerns about how his offensive skills may translate to the NHL. Schneider is seen as an adequate north-south skater but his lateral movement and edge work are average. At the NHL level, he will have difficulty creating either passing or shooting lanes from the point. His first pass out of his own end is more than adequate but stretch passes are not his strong suit. Also, this past season, a number of his points are either on the power play or are secondary assists. Schneider is not seen as a creator of scoring chances, even if his raw numbers might on the surface suggest otherwise. And despite his physical strength, Schneider does not yet possess an NHL-calibre shot.
Schneider is characterized by some pundits as a high floor, low ceiling player. Most people agree that Schneider will play in the NHL, at least as a third pairing shutdown defenceman. His defensive skills and physicality are NHL-calibre now. Schneider is seen as a stalwart defender on the penalty kill at the next level and he will likely play in the NHL earlier than many other players taken in this year’s draft. But there is disagreement about whether he can become a top-four or top-pairing defenceman who can generate offence to any material extent. His upside may be to play with a more offensive-minded defence partner to enable that player to take more risks and create offence. This is a valuable role but not the role a team envisions for a player taken early in the first round. That said, a decade ago, before the NHL game emphasized greater speed and before the emergence of the undersized rushing defenceman, Schneider would almost certainly have been a top ten pick. Schneider also possesses the skill set that may be even more valuable in the late season and playoffs where space becomes scarce and physical play intensifies.
Schneider has another year of eligibility in the WHL and may need some time to develop his offensive skills in the minors if he is to develop into a first or second pairing defenceman. Given his defensive skills, depending on the team that selects him, Schneider may arrive in the NHL earlier than anticipated as his play in his own end is NHL-calibre already. Schneider’s ceiling may be unclear and his upside may not be as high as other players ranked in a similar position. But Schneider’s floor is that of a shutdown defender who will almost certainly be an NHL defenceman in the near future. If the Canadiens choose to use their first-round pick to shore up the right side of their defence, Braden Schneider would be a safe, reliable option with some potential upside.