In my last post, I noted that since Matt Carle finished 10th in scoring in the country in 2005-06 with 1.36 PPG, the person who’s come closest to matching those numbers is Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz. Schultz is currently tied 14th in the country with 1.30 PPG, which is on a pace to best former teammate Brendan Smith, who finished 15th last season with 1.24 PPG. Schultz also leads the Badgers in points with 39, and shares the team lead in goals with 15 in 30 games (four more goals than Carle had in 39 games).
Well, today, I was at New York Rangers practice, working on a story for New York Hockey Journal, and in between interviews for that story, I took the opportunity to talk to Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, two of the leaders of last year’s team that went to the national championship game, about Schultz, Smith, and what it is about Wisconsin that produces such prolific scorers on the blueline.
“I don’t want to compare those two guys,” Stepan said. “They’re very different, but they’re both competitors, and that’s something where they’re very similar. They compete hard, they hate to lose, but they’re different styles in the way they get things done.”
McDonagh, meanwhile, sees more similarities between Schultz and Smith.
“They’re both good skaters,” McDonagh said, “Tall lanky guys, both can shoot the puck real hard, and both have real good vision for finding guys and finding lanes to the net.”
And, while he wasn’t one of those bigtime point producers himself, McDonagh noted that the Wisconsin blueline has featured some strong offensive d-men in recent years.
“It’s always been good,” McDonagh said. “Even before I was there, they had Tom Gilbert, Ryan Suter was there before him. They’ve got a good plethora of offensive d-men. Eaves thrives on jumping up in the play, and on the power play, he likes having two defensemen up top no matter what. Some teams do five forwards or four forwards and a D, but he’s always got two of them up there.
“I know Schultzy’s been running it since his freshman year, so it’s no coincidence that he’s come around and put the puck in the net.”
Schultz is starting to make more and more sense as a Hobey candidate, with the top two scorers in the country playing for a team that is in danger of not making the NCAAs, Yale’s array of high-scoring forwards not being so high-scoring at the moment, and the lingering question of whether one of BC’s high-scoring forwards – in this case, Cam Atkinson – will get that Hobey that has eluded Brian Gionta, Chris Collins, Nathan Gerbe, Patrick Eaves, Tony Voce, etc. If the Badgers continue to play well, and Schultz remains in the territory he’s in on the scoring charts, Wisconsin may not have nearly so long to wait for its second Hobey winner as it did for its first.