When the 2016-17 season began, Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt was seen as nothing more than a bottom-pairing defenseman on a Capitals team stacked with talent on the blueline. But as the regular season progressed, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived, the 25-year old Schmidt has seen his role increase and has proven himself worthy of an even bigger role next season.
A restricted free agent this summer, Schmidt has earned himself a new deal with a career year. While his playing time in the second half of the regular season decreased significantly with the Capitals’ acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk, an injury to Karl Alzner early in the playoffs gave Schmidt the chance to return to the lineup and he has not disappointed.
In nine games played in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Schmidt has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) and a plus/minus rating of plus-4, while averaging 17:37 of ice time a night. Amongst all Capitals defensemen in the playoffs, Schmidt ranks second in points and sixth in average ice time. He has blocked nine shots and has five takeaways.
But Schmidt’s strong showing shouldn’t come as a surprise. When the Capitals lost defenseman John Carlson for an extended period of time during the regular season, Schmidt’s role increased significantly. When Brooks Orpik missed over 40 games last season to an injury, Schmidt was put into a Top 4 role and performed admirably. Schmidt recorded a career-high 17 points this season and showed the potential to become a talented two-way threat like fellow young blueliner Dmitry Orlov, who has become an offensive threat this season.
With even more playing time, it’s possible Schmidy could reach the offensive totals Orlov has reached the last two seasons (33 and 39 points, respectively).
By Michael Fleetwood