Florida Panthers 20 under 21: #14 - Thomas Schemitsch

Fine showing at development camp has d-man on the rise

The Panthers are high on this right-shooting, 19-year-old defenseman, loaded with offensive ability. At development camp this summer, he did not disappoint. At #14, on our list is:

#14 - Thomas Schemitsch - Defense- Owen Sound Attack

Highest ranking: 14 Lowest Ranking: 16

The Panthers were very pleased with the selection of Schemitsch in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (#88 overall). In 2014-15, he posted 49 points (14 goals and 35 assists) and an even plus/minus rating in 68 games. He was 2nd in points by defenseman on the team (after Colorado 2nd round pick Chris Bigras) and 9th in OHL in the same category (out of 100 defensemen).

It was noted at that time that this tall defenseman skated well, and was developing his two-way game. Concerns about that defensive zone game have always been his achilles heal, but that stems in large part from his late switch to defense from forward. Still, his hockey intelligence and vision were both noted as strong by scouts.

Since that time he has grown, now showing up as 6’4” and 206 lbs. But he was slowed by a wrist injury that prevented him from starting the 2015-16 season with his team.

Schemitsch missed time at the start of the season with a broken wrist which put him behind everyone else.“It was tough at the beginning because everyone had 15 games on me,” Schemitsch noted.“Being thrown into that was tough. Finally I think I've caught up to everybody and my plus/minus has been better in the last 10 games (+4 over 10 games compared to -12 over the first 25). You need to play games to be in game shape and everyone had those on me so I had to catch up.”

He finished the 2015-16 season with 31 points in 51 games for Owen Sound (9 goals 22 assists), but he was also minus 12. His rate of points-per-game dropped from .72 in 2014-15, to .60 in 2015-16. This had little to do with the team itself, as Owen Sound had similar seasons in the two campaigns, with 1st round losses in the playoffs and a 4th place finish in the Western conference, midwest division of the OHL (which also has London and Erie) in both seasons. Schemitsch finished 2nd in defensive scoring on the Attack to Santino Centorame, and was 33rd in OHL defensemen in points (out of 100 D-men). He did play for the OHL all-stars in the Subway Series (against Russia) where he had one assist in two games played.

Talent-wise, Schemitsch is described this way:

Schemitsch is a tall, imposing defender whose development rate has been impressive since taking up the defense position later in his minor hockey playing days. He has great vision and can quarterback a power-play as a dual threat – his shot is just as impressive as his playmaking abilities. His 200-foot game leaves a little to be desired but given his rapid development he should continue to improve that aspect of his game.

This was evident at Panthers Development Camp this summer. Schemitsch looked outstanding driving play up ice and attacking the opposition net. His skating and skill level were both excellent. Yet, on the defensive side, Panthers staff were taking extra time to work on his body positioning, and some of the faster forwards were able to blow by him before he could pivot and adjust. Perhaps this is why Schemitsch has not yet been brought into the Panthers professional ranks.

He will turn 20 on October 26th so he could play in the AHL in 2016-17 but he may return to Owen Sound for an overage season. A big and mobile defenseman, Schemitsch projects as a solid second pairing defensemen who can contribute to the offensive attack.

There is no doubt that Schemitsch was hampered by the wrist injury last season. Even after his return to the lineup, he wore a wrist brace into the new year, well after January. His size and offensive ability are both noteworthy. The Panthers new focus on mobile, puck moving defensemen likely mean that Schemitsch will be given every opportunity to stabilize the defensive side of his game. As his Owen Sound Coach Ryan McGill, said about him:

He's got good hockey sense but if he's going to be a pro hockey player we have to continue to work on teaching him how to defend. He's got offensive instincts that you can't work on. We need to get him to be consistent defensively and we're working on that.”Schemitsch's development as a defenseman is likely slower than some of his peers because he was only switched from forward later in his career.

There is plenty of time. With 8 defensemen vying for 6-7 NHL positions this coming season, the Panthers are going to have some very capable defensemen playing in Springfield. And with Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, and Jason Demers all signed long-term, there are not many positions that are going to open up any time soon. Schemitsch should be watched closely this season. As an overage player in the OHL, he should excel. If not, there may be cause for concern. But, if he does what we expect, and stands out, look for Schemitsch to appear in Springfield by the end of next season, and to get a couple of years to refine his game at the pro-level in Southern New England. This is a player worth keeping an eye on, he very well could have a future in South Florida.