Chances are if you’ve read a scouting report on Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Braden Schneider, you’ve seen phrases such as “throwback” or “old school.” There’s good reason for that – the product of Prince Albert, Sask., takes pride in approaching the game with a little extra bite.
“I take a lot of pride in my ‘D’ zone and that’s where I’m most prominent,” Schneider said. “I love to be hard to play against and physical as well – I’d say I’m a hard-hitting, two-way defenceman.”
Hard-hitting might be a modest self-description from the ninth-overall skater in North America, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. Rarely does a night go by in the WHL where Schneider hasn’t punished someone – in clean fashion – for getting a little too daring in the Wheat Kings end of the rink.
Sure, the NHL has seen its fair share of smaller, shifty, puck-moving defencemen in recent years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a 6-foot-2, 202-pound bruiser like Schneider. Particularly when you consider that there’s elite skating and untapped offensive potential within his game.
As a late birthday – Schneider was born on September 20, 2001 – he is one of the older players in the 2020 NHL Draft class, which has afforded him three full seasons of play with the WHL’s Wheat Kings. Since 2017, Schneider has steadily improved and focused on rounding out his game.
“My first few years in the league, I was really focused on being able to be a guy who was trusted in his own end and being able to make a good first pass,” Schneider said. “Last year, I kind of figured that out and I focused on being a little more offensive. Obviously, that comes with confidence and opportunity, and I was fortunate enough to get that and have some pretty good teammates to play alongside.”
It seems as though Schneider figured things out offensively as well. He set career highs in assists (35) and points (42), soaring well clear of his previous career marks of 16 assists and 24 points.
“He has a great physical game, he’s a great defensive player,” said Ryan Kennedy, Senior Writer for The Hockey News. “What I like about Schneider is he plays a pro game. He’s almost kind of a safe pick. You look at him and you say, ‘Yeah, that is a kid who is going to play in the NHL for a long time. He has 15 years written all over him.’ Big body, skates well. He has some offense to his game, but he’s more of a penalty kill guy, really. But he is strong.”
Schneider has said he tries to model his game, best he can, after the likes of former WHL star Shea Weber, already a veteran of 16 NHL seasons, and Alex Pietrangelo. NHL Central Scouting has said his current comparable is Weber, which is a pretty good indicator he is succeeding and well on his way to being that guy who “is going to play in the NHL for a long time,” as Kennedy stated.
“They’re obviously both bigger guys, love playing hard in the ‘D’ zone, but if they get the opportunity they take it,” Schneider said of Weber and Pietrangelo. “For both of them, there are differences [in comparing with my game] – I’m lacking the shot that Weber has and Pietrangelo is a little smoother, but I’m working on it.”
Apparently Schneider has his own subtle sense of humour as well, because if you ask most other WHL players, chances are they would tell you he is pretty darn good in all facets of the game.
In more serious business, Schneider has already logged significant experience with Hockey Canada, which is sure to have boosted his stock and his development over the years. He captained Canada White at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge before then earning a gold medal with Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, chipping in with three points (2G-1A) in seven outings, logging a plus-9 rating for good measure. In 2019, Schneider was in evaluation camp for Canada’s entry into the 2020 World Junior Championship, but found himself on the outside looking in as one of the final cuts from the roster.
“Hockey Canada loves him,” Kennedy said. “He didn’t make the World Junior team, but he came pretty close. I know in speaking to the coaching staff during the training camp, they really liked him. That bodes well for Braden Schneider – when your country’s national team keeps you hanging around and wants you on those national teams, that’s great.”
Chances are pretty good Schneider will be back in that mix to represent his country at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
In the meantime, he is looking forward to the NHL Draft on Tuesday, and then to the return of WHL hockey, targeted to get underway December 4.
“I’m mostly looking forward to getting back with my teammates and looking forward to having a great year,” Schneider said. “Especially this year, I think we have a pretty good team. I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to get at it.”
Whatever the next stage holds for Schneider after the NHL Draft – NHL training camp, the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season, or the 2021 World Junior Championship – hockey fans can expect a hard-nosed, level-headed, two-way defenceman anchoring the blueline.
That’s just what ‘throwback’ is.
With files from Zach Hodder