The Edmonton Oilers had no shortage of young talent on their roster when the lockout ended and the 2013 season began, and two rookies had a decent impact for the team but were not among the finalists for the Calder Trophy. The Oilers’ young guns made hockey headlines during the lockout as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins headed to the AHL to play for the Oklahoma City Barons. Joining them there was rookie defenseman Justin Schultz, who made his professional debut after signing with the Oilers over the summer. He had been highly sought after by many teams after he became a free agent once his college career ended (and after he spurned an Anaheim Ducks team that drafted him in 2008), but he chose the Oilers and proved to be a great addition to their blue line.
Any high expectations Schultz faced in heading to the Oilers were only amplified by his performance with the Barons in the first three months of the AHL season. Schultz scored 18 goals and added 30 assists in only 48 games, a performance so impressive he was still winning AHL awards and honors in April despite having not played with the Barons since January. In Edmonton, he managed eight goals and 27 points, certainly a fine effort for a rookie defenseman, He finished minus-17 on the season, and while that isn’t a great number it’s more indicative of the team’s struggles than his own performance. He finished fifth on the team in scoring, and tied for the team lead in power play points with 15 (four goals, 11 assists). An effort like this is worthy of an “A-” grade, and the Oilers will continue to see great things from Schultz as they try and refocus their team and reach the playoffs next season.