Justin Schultz faced a substantial amount of criticism when he and the Anaheim Ducks were unable to come to terms on a contract after Schultz was selected No. 43 overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Schultz became a highly coveted free agent defenseman with the college credentials that seemed to warrant all of the hype.
During his time with University of Wisconsin, Schultz tallied a staggering 113 points in 121 games for the Badgers.
While college hockey may not be at the same caliber as major-junior developmental leagues, Schultz has continued his strong play in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons.
Currently leading the AHL in points, Schultz has started to show signs that he has the potential to be a difference maker for the Oilers once he makes his NHL debut.
While Schultz is benefiting from a team boasting such talented young stars such as Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it cannot be overlooked that Schultz is leading the league in scoring in his first season in professional hockey.
The Oilers have been in dire need for an offensive defenseman ever since the Chris Pronger left Edmonton.
Schultz has the offensive vision and the playmaking abilities to step into this role for the Oilers, while also adding another scoring threat to an already potent power-play unit.
Aside from Pronger, the Oilers haven’t had a truly great defenseman in recent memory; there have been serviceable, no-nonsense, players like Jason Smith, Jaroslav Spacek and Janne Niinimaa, but no one that really stood out.
Schultz could very well be that person.
When Schultz made the decision to sign with the Oilers, it was significant for various reasons, but perhaps most importantly was the fact that this top free agent chose Edmonton over other potential suitors.
This decision alone will catapult Schultz in the eyes of many Oilers fans, but his strong performances thus far in the AHL will only continue to fuel his popularity.
There is little doubt that Schultz will have an immediate impact on the Oilers once the NHL starts back up, and it is unfair to assume that he will be able to fill the score sheet like he has in the AHL, but based on performances thus far, Schultz has been showing that he has the skills to truly be the Oilers next great defenseman.
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