Tampa Bay Lightning fans may not have heard of Quinn Schmeimann when the defenseman was drafted out of the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL back in 2019, or followed him much last season, but he’s a prospect that’s worth keeping an eye on heading into his third season of junior hockey.
Schmiemann was a relatively unknown commodity when the Lightning drafted him back in the sixth round in 2019, and as a result, was left off last year’s T25U25 ranking by both the masthead and the site’s readers. This year, he garnered enough votes by both parties to land on this year’s ranking at 25 — in fact, a few readers seem to be a lot higher on him than the writers are.
Kamloops rebounded from the previous season and finished atop of the BC Division last year. The Blazers looked poised for a deep playoff run had the season not been cut short due to the pandemic. They were the highest scoring team in the entire WHL last season and also one of the best defensive teams during that campaign.
Schmiemann improved on his point totals slightly during the 2019-20 season, putting up five goals and 37 points in 60 games with the Blazers. That was good enough to finish second on the team in scoring by a defenseman — behind his defense partner and overager Max Martin. He also showed an increased willingness to engage with opponents physically and has blossomed into an excellent defensive player.
What’s most impressive about Schmiemann’s point production is how many of his points were generated at even-strength and how he was able to positively impact his team in that regard. Four of his five goals were produced at even-strength and 63% of Kamloops’ even-strength goals last season were scored with Schmiemann on the ice.
Schmeimann also got more of an opportunity this year to play on the powerplay, and will hopefully take another step further this upcoming season by becoming an impactful shorthanded player as well. Schmeimann was averaging about 17 minutes of ice time last season and that is likely to increase with Martin having aged out of the WHL. Schiemann’s role changing is also dependent on whether the Blazers’ top two defensemen in Montana Onyebuchi and Sean Strange turn pro or return for their overage seasons.
Offensive upside is still the lone question mark for Schmiemann at the professional level. However, the defensive growth he’s since he was drafted is very encouraging. He continues to show off great cap control, confidence when breaking up zone entries, and decent mobility that lends to a solid transition game and play with the puck.
As far as NHL comparables go, Schmeimann is trending towards a similar path as New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech, whom Lightning fans go to know well during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The following chart indicates how many points each player would have put up in the NHL had they been able to step into the league in a specific year of their development:
When the WHL does resume play in February of 2021, how Schmeimann performs will be crucial. Yes, it won’t be a typical season, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him (as well as other junior hockey players) to adjust to playing meaningful games again that late in a ‘hockey season’. It’s possible that we see Schmiemann’s production take a hit this season, but he could also take a huge step forward in that regard.
Looking at the Lightning’s prospect pool, behind Cal Foote, the defense cupboard seems a bit empty. With Nick Perbix still in the NCAA, Radim Salda having gone back to Europe, and Oleg Sosunov looking like he’s headed back for the ECHL-AHL train, there’s a lot still up in the air with whether any of them have legitimate NHL projections. The Lightning signing Dmitri Semykin and Alex Green to entry-level contracts was an encouraging sign, but if they’re the next best bet after Foote, there’s clearly still a huge void.
Schmeimann is still probably three or four seasons away from the NHL if he’s able to get there. His next two seasons of junior hockey will be crucial and telling to what his projection looks like in professional hockey. He’ll have to prove he has the ability to create, because a big knock against him in his draft year was that he lacked vision in the offensive zone and high-end puck skills. But the two-way defenseman took a big step in his play last season, and things look promising for the former sixth round pick. If everything falls into place, the Lightning could have another late round gem on their hands.