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

Roman Schmidt taking a shot looking towards the camera.
Roman Schmidt. Image courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning via Twitter (@TBLightning)

We took a look at all 35 players in the system that are aged 25 or younger (as of October 1, 2023) and ranked them. Welcome to the Top 25 Under 25. At #16, it’s big, hulking defender Roman Schmidt who’s making his introduction to professional hockey this year with the Syracuse Crunch.


Age: 20

Position: Right Defense

Draft: 2021 Round 3 (#96 overall)

2023-24 Team: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)

2022 Ranking: 16th


Scouting Report

Roman Schmidt is a unique player in that many of his hockey traits are changing as he moves into pro hockey. Earlier in junior he was one thing, now at the end of junior he seems more than ready for what the AHL challenge will bring him. All the while, his skillset has been changing.

As the son of two figure skating coaches, and a former figure skater himself, Schmidt had incredible footwork throughout junior, which drastically increased his capabilities in the offensive zone. There’s a video from a few years ago where he did a lap of the o-zone that many people gushed over. But as the years have gone on, and through his physical maturity in a 6’5″ body, Schmidt has slowed down during games.

My theory here is his thinking and reaction times can’t keep up with the fast changes that happen on the ice. We have gotten flashes of mobility and speed from Schmidt, but the only two occurences I could find video of were jumping into the slot on the power play and a breakaway at Lightning dev camp. Both of those moments didn’t require much in terms of playing against an enemy, and especially the shootout goal he looked much looser and confident when focused on one thing.

Defensively, Schmidt is described as playing rushes very slow, and pouncing on the opponent along the board or disrupting the play with his large frame. In junior, that’s been very effective as he was a staple in the Kitchener Rangers top-four.

I’m really curious to see what happens to him, or what he can introduce onto other players, in the AHL. Will his lack of speed just make him a pylon where he can’t activate the way he could against junior players, or will playing against men take away that advantage of being able to rub anyone out along the boards? Or will he be able to step up the physical ferocity and keep up with the pace that AHL forwards dictate on the ice?

We’ve seen some defenders shine when they’ve gotten to play more physically, while many big guys just can’t keep up. I would really like to see Schmidt reverse his current slide away from skating and improve his footwork. To be incredibly realistic, he’ll never have hands made of anything other than stone, but he has the potential to bring his skating up to a playable state that can work against top-four AHL forwards, and possibly even NHLers.

And that’s where I see the ceiling for Schmidt. He’s not on an NHL path yet in my books. A season in the AHL where he makes a name for himself on a crowded right side will do a lot for it, but he needs to reverse his trend away from mobility. Even the biggest guys in hockey need to skate. Zdeno Chara was an excellent skater for his size. Hedman is probably the best 6’6″+ defender in the modern era (Nik Lidstrom from the pre-lockout era says hi). Brandon Carlo, who former director of amateur scouting Al Murray compared Schmidt to, has good skating to go along with his big body. Carlo is probably the low end bar for a playable top-half of the lineup defender.

Last season in the OHL, Schmidt was on both special teams and regularly in the top half of minutes among defenders. He played less when the team needed the lead and more when the Rangers were leading. I am taking these from the few games I watched in person with my Rangers fan fiancee, so take that with a grain of salt. I could be wrong. But what I do know is Schmidt won’t be seeing much power play time in the AHL. He’ll be on the penalty kill, and initially either on the third pair, or as the seventh defender.

The Crunch right side is delightfully stacked this season, with Philippe Myers, Jack Thompson, Max Crozier, and Schmidt on the blueline. Schmidt is the youngest of the bunch as I would think starts fourth on that depth chart. The Crunch’s defense is looking incredibly strong on both sides, with offensive guy Day, SHL pro Emil Martinsen Lilleberg, the impressive Declan Carlile, and staple Devante Stephens. Eight guys all with a stake to real minutes. We’ll see how it all works out.


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