The Review-Journal presents its “Roster Review” series, which will examine each Golden Knights player’s current production and future outlook in alphabetical order. Tuesday: Defenseman Nate Schmidt.
It can be tempting to take Nate Schmidt for granted.
The gregarious defenseman has been part of the Golden Knights’ identity since the outset of the franchise. He’s been so consistent — minus his 20-game suspension last season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance — that it’s easy to overlook his accomplishments.
He’s not as skilled as Shea Theodore. He’s not as physical as Brayden McNabb. But he brings a cocktail of skills that makes him a prototypical modern defenseman. He’s what makes the blue line tick.
The same can be said for his effect on the locker room. Schmidt’s goofy, outgoing personality — he was filmed sliding on his hardwood floor in socks Thursday — obscures his true value.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 7, 2020
He isn’t just a jokester, though. If the Knights are having an off night, he’ll speak up. It’s why he’s served as an alternate captain many times. It’s also why he’s the team’s NHL Players’ Association representative.
And it’s definitely a reason he remains as important as ever to the franchise that unlocked his potential in 2017.
Schmidt’s worth to the Knights became clear last season when the team went 8-11-1 during his suspension.
Nothing about that has changed this season, even as the blue line morphed around him.
The Knights have tinkered with their defense corps all season to find the right mix. Rookies Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud and Jake Bischoff have received looks. Veterans Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland have rotated in and out. Alec Martinez was added at the trade deadline.
Through it all, Schmidt has stuck to his assigned tasks and delivered results. His offense (0.53 points per game) has increased for the fifth straight season despite him ceding power-play time to Hague and Theodore.
His skating and puck moving still have been impressive. His ability to defend opposing No. 1 lines — along with McNabb — remains key to the team’s success.
That all-around impact led to Schmidt leading Knights skaters in average time on ice in their first two seasons. And his value is still high even though Theodore is set to surpass him in that category this season.
Theodore, who is playing like one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen, still can’t do what Schmidt does defensively. That means Schmidt will remain important as ever for the rest of this season and beyond.
Schmidt should be one of the Knights’ top two defensemen for a long time.
He and Theodore have the same amount of term left on their contracts. They will be free agents after the 2024-25 season. Only Mark Stone and William Karlsson have longer deals with the Knights.
That makes Schmidt a crucial part of the team’s core.
Nate Schmidt file
Birthplace: St. Cloud, Minn.
2019-20 stats: 59 games, seven goals, 24 assists