With the unfortunate pause of the 2019-20 season, no one knows if the 2020 NHL Draft will be held before or after there’s a decision on the remainder of the season. As it stands, the Vegas Golden Knights are in eighth place in the league, meaning they would pick 24th. This draft is supposed to be one of the deepest in recent memory, so it would be best to stock the prospect cupboard with another future asset.
There is no question that Alexis Lafrenière will be picked first overall and the top-10 is forward heavy, but the first round is loaded with talent and there are several defensemen who should be picked in the second half of round one. This series will dive into who the Golden Knights should select with their first-round pick.
As mentioned, their exact pick is undetermined and could be higher or lower depending on if the league resumes (or doesn’t). No matter how the 2019-20 season ends, it will have an asterisk beside it, so let’s look toward the future.
Enter Braden Schneider
Playing in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Schneider is a two-way defenseman who takes care of business in his own end and knows when to jump into the play. He is ranked 25th on Craig Button’s latest draft rankings. He finished the 2019-20 season with 42 points (7 goals and 35 assists) in 60 games while wearing an “A” on his sweater for the second-straight season.
He is someone that general manager Kelly McCrimmon has kept his eye on all season and should have some extra intel as he is the owner of the Wheat Kings. He has seen Schneider improve statistically in his three seasons with the club, scoring one goal as a 16-year-old, potting eight the next season along with 24 points, and jumping up to 42 points this year.
A Golden Knights Target?
While his offensive game isn’t as strong as some of the others in this draft class, he is one of the best all-around defensemen and would be a great fit with the Golden Knights.
Where Schneider has seen the most improvement is on the other side of the puck. He comes away with the biscuit almost every time along boards and in the corners, while cutting down the gaps when the opposition attacks. He has also grown into a man’s body, clocking in at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds.
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He is not afraid to get physical, stepping up at the blue line when an opposing player skates in the zone with the puck. On the penalty kill and five-on-five, he clears the front of the net, battling for space so his goaltender can get a clear read on the play.
Even though Schneider is great in his own end, he can create offense. He has a high hockey IQ that helps him make smart decisions in the offensive zone. In the highlights below, you can see he knows when to jump up in the play to produce a scoring chance by creating an odd-man rush or hopping on a rebound.
He has a strong outlet pass to stretch the play and get the puck going in the opposite direction. When at the point, his ability to get his shot through defenders and on net is above par. He walks the blue line with ease and does a great job at keeping the puck in the zone. He only registered 108 shots on goal, but earned many assists as his forwards down low could tip the puck in the net.
Related: THW 2020 Mock Draft
Schneider is a defender who quietly takes care of business. He has the size and smarts to play in today’s NHL, but if McCrimmon selects him in the first round, he will return to junior to take another step in his leadership development and continue to work on his offensive game. With McCrimmon owning the Wheat Kings, he will be in the driver seat of Schneider’s development and could be a player Golden Knights fans fall in love with.