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Braden Schneider: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile | A Big, Smart, Physical Defender with Two-Way Potential

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The Devils are a team in need of major help on defense and a player like Schneider could be a solution to some of those ills. The question is how high is too high for a defenseman with some question marks on his offensive ceiling?

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Who is Braden Schneider?

Braden Schneider is a big-bodied defenseman with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on September 20, 2001, Schneider is one of the oldest players to be first-year draft eligible in 2020. He has size to go along with that age and is listed at 6’-2” and 209 pounds, making him a prototype for a physical defender, and, by all accounts, he’s not shy about using it. Schneider is somewhat unique as a draft pick in that he has played three full seasons in junior already. His numbers in those three seasons do not jump off the page from an offensive perspective, though he was able to make a bit of a leap in his third season this year, putting up 42 points in 60 games for Brandon. He was also a part of Canada’s U18 team in 2019, where he put up three points (2g, 1a) in seven games for team Canada. Career stats from Elite Prospects are shown below.

Stats via Elite Prospects

The book on Schneider is that he has potential to be a strong two-way defender, though his current hallmark, or at least the more consistently impressive part of his game, is his defense. He is big and physical, and his positioning and transition defense are reportedly top-of-the line, with his gap control touted highly and his defensive ability using both his stick and his body being well-regarded. While he has two-way potential, though, his game on offense represents a question mark for now. He took a significant step forward this season in production, though his numbers are still only okay for a top level NHL prospect on offense. He’s a gifted breakout passer and willing to jump into the play on offense, but I think there are still some questions about how much impact he can make on that side of the puck at the next level. Some potential does seem to be there for a decent contributor on offense though, and if his defensive game projects like many scouts think, he could develop into a force on the back end for the team that takes him in this year’s draft.

Where is Schneider Ranked?

Braden Schneider’s location in the rankings varies from service to service and it seems to largely hinge on what you think of his offensive upside. If he can put together a solid offensive game in the NHL, he has legitimate top-pairing or even #1 defenseman potential as a player. If not, he may settle in as more of stay-at-home defensive specialist, which can of course be valuable, but is tough to justify spending a pick on in the upper portions of the first round.

#9 — NHL Central Scouting - NA Skaters (Final)

#14 — HockeyProspect.com (January)

#13 — ISS Hockey (March)

#27 — Future Considerations (March)

#41 — The Draft Analyst (March)

#14 — TSN-MacKenzie (Midseason)

#25 — TSN-Button (March)

#46 — EliteProspects.com (February)

What Others are Saying About Braden Schneider

The variations in where one thinks Schneider fits into the draft picture seems to depend heavily on the perception of his offensive upside. At The Hockey Writers, Jeb Biggart put together a profile that seems to fall somewhere in the middle on that question, so we’ll go to an excerpt from that first:

While his offense is certainly impressive, the real draw to Schneider comes in his defense and patience. He’s become a consistent force on the back end, showcasing his exceptional gap control and corner play at any level. It’s rare to see him lose many board battles, especially when he’s throwing around a 209-pound frame. His first pass on transitions is often where he shines most when it comes to offense, but he can struggle with stretch passes. He’s also extremely patient with the puck, even when handling it in a dangerous area or under pressure. His size and stick play make up for his shortcomings in the speed department.

In summing up, Biggart writes that he feels there is possible upside to Schneider’s game on offense but that he more likely ends up being more of a shutdown-type D in a team’s top four. That is certainly a thing any team can use, but it’s not necessarily something to spend a top-15 pick on.

Next we head to Dobber Prospects, where they seem to be a little bit more bullish on Schneider’s offensive upside and also love his defensive game. A portion of the profile from Tony Ferrari is here:

His game is predicated on effective puck movement and a willingness to use his strong frame to his advantage. Defensively, he stays in a good position and closes the gap on the rush. He engages physically, stepping up on a forward who is attempting to enter the zone with possession. He battles in front of the net, using his size to clear space for his goaltender. He has a penchant for throwing big hits that can sometimes take him out of the play which is one area of his game that could use some cleaning up. The young Brandon Wheat Kings defender makes a good first pass, oftentimes opting for the aggressive play such as a stretch pass.

The ability to run a good breakout is something the 2019-20 Devils certainly lacked a lot of the time, and most seem to agree that Schneider is effective in that role on top of his defensive proficiency. Dobber also likes his shot and seems to feel better about his two-way potential overall. If he does prove to be an effective offensive player at the next level, he could certainly be a formidable player.

On the topic of his offensive game, NHL dot com did this profile where Schneider talked about his efforts to round out that half of his game, including some thoughts from his current coach and GM on his potential:

Brandon general manager Darren Ritchie said he believes Schneider has the ability to be as good in the offensive zone as he has proven to be in the defensive zone.

”I don’t think his mindset is to jump into the play all the time and get points,” Ritchie said. “ I think he takes care of his end and when he has those opportunities he will jump into the play. We saw it more in the second half of [last] season where he would join the rush as the fourth man to join the forwards. He does that more. He’s going to do it again more this year. He has a really good shot, he probably doesn’t get enough credit for it as well.”

Schneider received an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list.

”He’s solid on his skates and moves the puck like an NHL player, similar to Ryan Pulock (New York Islanders),” Peter Sullivan of Central Scouting said. “Brandon is struggling, but good players stand out on a bad team and he stands out. He’s got very good hockey sense and decision making. He’s tough to play against, and he’s a player, that from a coach’s perspective, you can play him in any situation.”

You always have to take coach and GM assessments of their own players with a bit of a grain of salt, but they offer some backing for his all-around game here, and if he can use that shot effectively to put up goals in the NHL, again, he’s going to be very successful.

Finally, we go to Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst, who, as ever, has a good, thorough look at Schneider’s game in his profile. Here’s where Kournianos lands:

A promising blueliner like Schneider knows exactly when to switch between defense and offense, and skate up ice with confidence. He uses his sturdy frame, quick thinking and long reach to his advantage, and he is a major problem solver for his coach in situations like the penalty kill, where Schneider can be an unforgiving adversary to challenge for net-front superiority. He also times his releases from the low slot in conjunction with his partner’s positioning. All these aspects make it understandable why Schneider is viewed as a legitimate first-round candidate, but infrequent game-breaking instances places him outside the top tier of first-year eligible defenders.

I think this cuts to the chase well, noting that the tools are definitely there for a solid (and maybe even really good) NHLer, but the dynamism you look for in a top-tier pick may not quite be there. Even with that caveat, though, Kournianos still drives home that Schneider is a smart player, a physical presence, and a smooth skater with the potential to be very good.

An Opinion of Sorts

Braden Schneider is a tough player to assess in some ways because there really is some potential for him to be a special player if he manages to translate his game to the NHL. There are also reason to be a bit skeptical though, as the numbers are not particularly standout, particularly considering his age as one of the oldest players in the draft (first-year eligible). The age and maturity factor also tends to give me at least a little pause on the defensive side of things too. Nobody doubts he is an elite defender in the WHL, but he won’t outsize NHL players in quite the same way. That said, he seems like he is a very smart player on top of being big and physical, so the potential for being a big time shut-down D is definitely there. I probably wouldn’t want the Devils spending high first rounder on him, but if they end up with a pick in the back half of the first or early second and he’s still around, he could be worth the selection.