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Tampa Bay Lightning Top 25 Under 25: #16 - Roman Schmidt

A very rare right-handed defenceman in the Lightning’s organization

London Knights v Kitchener Rangers Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

At the 16th place of our ranking is another newcomer — a 19-year-old defenceman Roman Schmidt from Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Schmidt was the first selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, where the Lightning traded their first-round and second-round pick, selecting Schmidt as the 96th overall. After his inaugural season in the OHL, Schmidt is expected to be the Rangers’ top defenceman in the upcoming season.

Schmidt is a right-handed defenceman, who is pretty versatile on the blue line and used to play on the left side in the OHL last season. His biggest advantage, however, is his size. Schmidt is a 6’5” and 215 pounds defenceman, who loves to use it on the ice, especially in battles alongside the boards. He’s quite good in using his body-positioning, which’s helping him to retrieve the puck from his opponents. He established himself more as a stay-at-home defenseman at the younger age, but with growing responsibility in the Rangers, he also showed some flashes of offensive game, making him more of a two-way defenseman. Last season he scored 11 goals in 68 games, which is a decent result for a defenseman of his profile. He has a great shot from the point and scored five of his goals last season on the power play.

“Roman’s one of those guys that we say makes the all-warmup team,” said Lightning assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Al Murray. “Because as soon as he steps on the ice, everybody takes a look and they see a great big guy wheeling around, and they go ‘Holy mackerel, who’s this guy?’ [Tampa Bay Sports]

Despite his massive size, Schmidt is a decent skater, which is obviously related with the fact that both of his parents are figure skaters. Schmidt himself also spent some time doing figure skating at the young age, making foundation for his future hockey career. He’s, however, not the flashiest player you will ever see and need some work on his acceleration skills. In his pre-draft scouting reports, he had been often criticized for playing with a slow pace, which also hurt his quality of decision. It seems like this aspect of his game has been improved a little bit since his draft year, as he finds himself more often in the opponent’s defensive zone possessing the puck.

While Schmidt reminded Al Murray of the Boston Bruins blueliner Brandon Carlo and Schmidt himself grew up looking at Victor Hedman as one of his hockey idols, Geo earlier last season compared him to Erik Cernak, who is currently the best Lightning’s defensive defenceman [Raw Charge]

I generally dislike drawing comparisons between prospects and current NHLers, but it’s hard not to look at Schmidt and not see a little bit of Erik Cernak. Cernak was never a stellar point producer in the OHL, only recording seven goals and 36 points in 91 career OHL games. Like Schmidt, he didn’t start in the OHL until his Draft+1 season. Cernak didn’t light up the score sheet in the AHL either, recording just seven goals and 25 points in 80 career AHL games. Cernak though does provide a blueprint for the development path for Schmidt and some hope for a similar type of player behind Cernak in the depth chart at some time in the future

Having said that, Schmidt is still a long-term project. His upside in the NHL is questionable, there’s a small chance that he can be a middle-pairing defenceman on some teams, but more likely, if he’ll ever make the NHL, he will be a bottom-pair or depth physical defenceman, who could be utilized on penalty kill. The Lightning, however, do need right-handed defenceman, which might make his road to the NHL a little bit easier.

Schmidt also attended the 2022 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp last summer, but hasn’t made the final roster for the World Junior Championship. He has an experience of playing on national level though, participating in the U18 World Championship (on the same team as two other Tampa Bay prospects Isaac Howard and Dylan Duke), where he didn’t register any point in five games.

Schmidt is a client of agent Dan Milstein, who also represents Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev and Vladdy Namestnikov. Last December he signed a three-year entry level contract, which will take him through the 2024-25 season.