Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini cautioned before the Barons season opener that rookie defenseman Justin Schultz might need a little time to adjust to professional hockey.
Turns out the American Hockey League is trying to adjust to Schultz's pro debut.
Heading into the Oklahoma City Barons' Field Trip Education game at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday against Toronto at the Cox Convention Center, Schultz leads the AHL in scoring with 16 points.
It's been a dozen years since an AHL defenseman has finished in the top 10 in scoring. No defenseman has ever led the league in scoring. Not even close.
“It's awesome to see he's so dynamic,” said Barons forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. “He's the kind of guy you want to get him the puck in the offensive zone. It's nice to have a D-man like that on the power play.”
Schultz has seven goals. He's the only defenseman in the top 10 in goals scored. His most recent goal was the game-winner 1:38 into overtime Saturday night against Abbotsford, a 2-1 OKC decision that ended a three-game winless streak.
“He's been impressive,” said forward Jordan Eberle, who led the Oilers in scoring last season. “He drives in and has his head up at all times. He's off to a great start, a great player.”
At age 22, the two-time All-American at Wisconsin is older than Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, the same as Eberle. The other three already have NHL experience and are the Oilers' No. 1 forward line that's playing in Oklahoma City during the NHL lockout.
Is Schultz surprised by his quick start that's included AHL Rookie of the Month and AHL Player of the Week awards?
“I'm just trying to play my game,” Schultz said. “I'm not trying to be something that I'm not. I'm just trying to go out there and do what I've done, the things that got me here. All the guys have made it really easy on me.