Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defenceman Schultz Impresses Oilers Brass One Practice into His NHL Career

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defenceman Schultz Impresses Oilers Brass One Practice into His NHL Career

Article excerpt

Schultz impresses early in Edmonton

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EDMONTON - He has just one NHL practice under his belt, but defenceman Justin Schultz has already impressed the Edmonton Oilers' coaching staff.

"I see a hockey player who has moxie, who has the ability to step up into the play when needed, he has the ability to play strong defensively, he skates strong, he loves the game," said Oiler assistant coach Steve Smith, who has seen virtually every one of the 34 games Schultz played this season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.

"From all accounts from the coaches I've talked to he wants the puck, he wants to be on the ice, he wants to be a game-changer. There's just so many positives I've seen to this point."

Schultz was one of the most sought-after free agents last summer, and he showed while playing on a talented Barons team including Oiler forwards Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

He left the AHL with 18 goals -- two shy of the AHL record for defencemen -- and 48 points, second in league scoring only to Eberle.

The 23-year-old native of Kelowna, B.C., who spent the previous three seasons with the University of Wisconsin, said having the three Oilers in the AHL was definitely an advantage for him.

"We played a lot together ... hopefully we can bring that chemistry up here," he said Monday.

He was put to task right way as the Oilers' training camp got into full swing with a two-hour, up-tempo practice full of drills.

"It seemed like it went by pretty quick," Schultz said. "It was awesome, from drill to drill real quick, a well planned practice. I really enjoyed myself out there. It was a fast-paced practice, guys were flying around there so it was good to get that first one out of the way."

With only one week before the season opens on the weekend, head coach Ralph Kruger elected to pair Schultz with his namesake: NHL veteran Nick Schultz who has played 763 NHL games, all but 20 of those with the Minnesota Wild.

"He just makes it easier," Justin Shultz said of his defence partner. "He's been in the league a long time so it's nice to have someone back there to talk to me a lot, kind of ease me into the NHL. …

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