If I were to tell you that the Caps have a new young defensemen whose first half season compares very respectably relative to the first half a season of Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner, you’d probably be excited, right?
Okay, be excited.
Tuesday’s game against the Flames was Nate Schmidt‘s 41st in the NHL. Regular readers of the site know that Peter is a huge Nate Schmidt fan. While I haven’t written much about Schmidt here on RMNB, I’ve written about him elsewhere and think the Caps made a great decision in keeping him in Washington this season.
As an undrafted free agent, Schmidt doesn’t get the fanfare of other young Caps prospects like Connor Carrick or Dmitri Orlov, but he should. He’s also the least seasoned member of the Caps current blue line, so it’s understandable that he flies under the radar a bit. Of the four homegrown defensemen on the Caps roster, he’s the only guy who isn’t a former first-round pick.
But a closer look at Schmidt’s first half a season as an NHL player gives us reason to get excited about his future with the Caps. This guy is good, and he’s young enough to get even better. To put Schmidt’s first 41 games into context, here’s a look at how Schmidt compared to the other homegrown talents on the current Washington blue line, Mike Green, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner.
We’ll start with time on ice per game and points per 60 minutes of play, both for 5-on-5 play only.
TOI/G is time on ice per game. P/60 is the amount of points a player nets per 60 minutes of play.
Anyone else surprised that Schmidt has seen more 5-on-5 ice time in his first half season worth than any of these guys? All three of the others were more highly touted as prospects than Schmidt. Some of this is due to the Caps horrid depth on the blue line last season, and his TOI/G is down this year, but the fact that Schmidt is more trusted, in terms of ice time, than any of these three at the same point in their careers surprised me.
Schmidt is the least offensively productive of the group. This might be because he’s played more minutes with Mike Green than any other partner. Schmidt therefore plays it safe and tends to puck to his gifted running mate. Or maybe his offensive game is just late to blossom.
|Player||Relative SA%||Relative ZS%||QOC%||QOT%|
Relative SA%-The percentage of shot attempts that a team sees when a player is on the ice vs. when he’s on the bench.
Relative ZS%-The percentage of shifts a player starts in the offensive zone relative to his teammates.
QOC%-The quality of competition a player faces, measured by TOI of opponents.
QOT%-The quality of teammate a player has played with, measured by TOI.
There is a lot to like in this chart.
Schmidt is second only to Green at tilting the ice in the Caps’ favor. A lot of people are second to Green when it comes to tilting the ice, as he’s an elite possession player. No one in the group has awful possession, but the fact that Schmidt is better through 41 games than Alzner and Carlson, two very capable hockey players, is great to see.
While Green was a better possession player than Schmidt, he did it with far easier zone stats. Schmidt’s plus-4.28 ZS% means he starts 4.28 percent more shifts in the offensive zone than his average teammate. This means he sees “easy” zone starts (closer to the opponent’s net), but they are certainly not the cake zone starts that Green saw. While Carlson and Alzner both faced tougher zone starts than Schmidt, they aren’t significantly enough tougher to discredit Schmidt’s possession advantage.
Schmidt has faced the second toughest competition of the group, ever so slightly behind Alzner. However, he has also had the second best quality of teammates (Thanks, Mike Green!), finishing barely behind Carlson. There’s not a lot here that is noteworthy about Schmidt other than the fact that, overall, the quality of player on the ice, both teammates and competition, is respectable (and pretty high, actually) when compared to the other players.
|Player||PP TOI/G||PK TOI/G|
PP & PK TOI/G-The amount of PP/PK time a player gets per game
Schmidt is the only player of the bunch that wasn’t entrusted with much PP or PK time during his first half season with the Caps. This is understandable, as he’s obviously under Green, Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Alex Ovechkin on the PP point depth chart, and it’s not shocking that such a young player isn’t being given PK minutes, especially given the Caps current defensive depth. On top of that, Schmidt’s game doesn’t necessarily lend itself to someone with a stereotypical PK pedigree. He’ll have to earn those minutes over time, if he’s ever to get them.
Nate Schmidt is really good at hockey. His first 41 games as an NHL player should have Caps fans excited. While his potential might not be as high as other homegrown talents on the Caps’ current blue line, his current progress holds his own in comparison.
Dates used for the first 41 games of each player: Green, 10/12/2005-11/18-2006; Carlson, 11/20/2009-11/17/2010; Karl Alzner, 11/26/2008-12/28/2009
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