When the 2013 season finally got underway, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz found his name on most experts’ preseason lists of Calder Trophy candidates. There was a good reason for that, as the former University of Wisconsin star had been an offensive force with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL during the lockout. As the season has worn on, he has proven to be a reliable defenseman and a tremendous asset on the power play. The Oilers have struggled despite a wealth of young talent, leaving some of Schultz’s numbers looking pretty rough. Other rookies like Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers have shined much brighter, and it is starting to seem like Schultz may no longer be the frontrunner for rookie of the year that he was when the season started.
Schultz joined the Oilers in July of 2012, signing as a free agent after failing to come to terms with the Anaheim Ducks (who drafted him in 2008). The lockout saw him head to the Barons alongside Oilers teammates Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Schultz scored 18 goals and had 48 points in just 34 AHL games, numbers that are still good enough to keep him in the league’s top 20 in scoring. In 30 games with the Oilers, he has five goals and 15 points, with four of his goals and 12 of his points coming with the man-advantage. The Oilers currently sit near the bottom of the Western Conference standings with an 11-12-7 record, which has Schultz sporting a less than impressive minus-12 rating. His performance has been pretty close to what everyone expected, but he faces long odds to take home the Calder at this point, as other rookies have done more.
Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 12 goals and 20 points, and it would appear the award is his to lose. Schultz could still be announced as a finalist, with Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Jakob Silfverberg of the Ottawa Senators also expected to get some attention for their play this season.