Earlier this season, I wrote a little blurb on Justin Schultz, the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect who had just been named AHL Player of the Week in late October, mostly because I was floored by the fact that this kid is in his first pro season, is a defenseman, and was off to such a silly-good start that he found himself leading the AHL in scoring. All of it was made more incredible by doing it in the face of the ridiculous expectations he heaped on himself during the off-season.
Well, you know how that stuff turns out – small sample size, kid got some bounces early, and super-hot players regress eventually.
And undeniably, he can’t keep up this pace, but it’s worth pointing out: A full quarter of the way in to the AHL season, he’s still leading the AHL in scoring. Ahead of teammates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Taylor Hall. Ahead of Nazem Kadri, Gustav Nyqvist, Nino Niederreiter and Brayden Schenn. All of ‘em.
He has points in seven straight games, tallying 13 points over that stretch (four goals, nine assists), and now sits with 28 points in 18 games. For context, last season Chris Bourque led the AHL in points (93 in 73 games) – after him, half the guys who finished in the top-10 didn’t even average a point-per-game, which Schultz would still be at after a 10-game pointless streak. He’s cruising along at 1.55 as is.
Here’s a look at the top-20 skaters in the AHL so far:
That’s a sizable drop from #1 to #4, too.
Obviously it helps him that sometimes he’s moving the puck up to established NHLers. Obviously he can’t keep this up. But you don’t casually toss up 28 points in your first 18 pro games as a rookie defenseman if you aren’t something special. Franchise d-men aren’t easy to come by – the Oilers must be licking their chops watching their 22-year old prospect show that his ceiling includes that label.