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Oklahoma City Barons: Rookie Justin Schultz on hot path to the NHL

The Barons defenseman leads the American Hockey League in scoring with 16 points. Schultz and the Barons will host Toronto at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday in annual Field Trip Day game at Cox Center.
By Mike Baldwin Published: November 12, 2012
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photo - AHL HOCKEY: Justin Schultz of the Barons controls the puck as the Oklahoma City Barons play the Houston Aeros in an American Hockey League game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, October 26, 2012: ORG XMIT: SCPA0378    PHOTO BY STEVEN CHRISTY, FOR THE OKLAHOMAN
AHL HOCKEY: Justin Schultz of the Barons controls the puck as the Oklahoma City Barons play the Houston Aeros in an American Hockey League game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, October 26, 2012: ORG XMIT: SCPA0378 PHOTO BY STEVEN CHRISTY, FOR THE OKLAHOMAN

“They always find a way to get you the puck. It's unreal. You know when you're out there with them you're going to get chances. I'm having a blast. Hopefully it can continue and we can start winning a lot of games.”

Schultz's offensive talents — high hockey IQ, a lethal wrist shot and skills to drive to the net — are rare for a blue liner. His defensive game needs some work. But offensive defensemen are invaluable in the NHL, especially on the power play.

“I think you're seeing someone express themselves with natural instincts of how to play the game,” Tambellini said. “He's a very confident young man. A lot of things just naturally come to him. Obviously, there will be times it's hard for him and times to show his stuff. That's part of getting better.”

Schultz was a second-round pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2008. After his junior year at Wisconsin, Schultz used a loophole in the NHL collective bargaining agreement to become a free agent.

The entire NHL followed his decision last summer. If he was thrown back into the 2012 draft, he probably would have been one of the top two or three players selected.

Schultz chose the Oilers in large part to play with Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Hall, to join a talented young nucleus with a bright future.

“It was very overwhelming last summer, that's for sure,” Schultz said. “There was a lot of media attention, all the Twitter stuff and whatnot. I'm just glad to be playing. It's a chance to show what I have on the ice and get past all the off-season talk. I'm just trying to play my game.”

So far, his game has taken the AHL by storm.


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