Goalie - Catches Left
Born May 12, 2000 -- Nasslau, Switzerland
Height 6.05 -- Weight 204lbs
When Akira Schmid was eight years old, he suited up as a hockey player for the first time. Perhaps a little later than most, Schmid had previously been playing soccer as a goalkeeper.
Although it would seem natural to gravitate towards the goaltending position as a hockey player, that's not how things necessarily started for Schmid.
"I couldn't score," Schmid joked with MSG Networks in September 2018. "So, I just became a goalie, when I played soccer I was a goalie, so I decided that I would play goalie in hockey."
All these years later, it appears the right choice was made. Schmid was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 5th round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Schmid watched on his smartphone from Switzerland as he was selected by the Devils in 2018.
"I just couldn't believe I was drafted," Schmid added. "I was so happy and excited."
The 18-year-old grew up in Switzerland and was a fan of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price growing up. Schmid would watch highlights of Price on YouTube, unable to catch NHL games live due to the time differences.
After he was drafted, Schmid came to New Jersey to attend Development Camp in July. When Schmid attended his first NHL training camp, last September, two fellow Swiss-natives were there to guide him through the process.
Nico Hischier and Mirco Mueller had both been through the rigors of an NHL training camp, both knew a little bit about Schmid, their fellow countryman. Hischier said that the two of them took Schmid under their wing, they took him out to dinner in Jersey City, toured him around the area - just made him feel comfortable in what can be an overwhelming experience.
Hischier and Schmid had previously played together, both a part of the Swiss national team that competed at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia.
What was ahead for Schmid was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the young goaltending prospect as he attempted to find himself in the North American game and leagues.
This past single hockey season, he has made three separate stops in three different leagues to find the right fit after leaving his native Switzerland where he had spent his entire hockey career. Schmid had spent his entire career in the Langnau youth system but took the step to North America. Before finding a home in Omaha of the USHL, there were brief stops in the WHL with Lethbridge and a stop in Corpus Christi in the NAHL, eventually landing with the Lancers in November 2018.
"After an unfortunate situation in Lethbridge to start the season, Akira really showed that he could handle adversity after just arriving from his homeland of Switzerland for the first time," Devils goaltending development coach Scott Clemmensen told NewJerseyDevils.com.
"Lethbridge added an import player just after the season started and that meant they had more import players than they were allowed, which pushed Akira out," Clemmensen added. "Finding him another junior team that had the roster space to add an import goalie was difficult due to the fact that most teams (no matter what league) had already had their roster set for the year."
Both Schmid and the Devils worked to find the young goaltender a hockey home in North America. Both sides wanted to assure he could remain here, which Clemmensen acknowledged was the best course of action for his development.
"Omaha was one of those teams that gave Akira an opportunity," Clemmensen said. "He proved that he could be a solid goalie for them. It was a great fit for both parties. The USHL is a good league and to have Akira play a full season there was great for his development and introduction to North American hockey."
The fit was instant.
Schmid played in a career high 37 games, with a 16-16-0 record with the Lancers. On February 11, 2019 he was named USHL Goaltender of the Week, when he posted a pair of shutout victories. When the Lancers closed out their season on April 13, the Swiss goaltender made 25 saves in the finale to finish with the league's top save percentage (.926) and was second in the USHL in goals-against average at 2.18.
He also had two shutouts and finished the year with one assist.
Both Schmid and the Devils were happy that the move to Omaha worked out for the up-and-comer. It was an important development for both sides to have Schmid play on North American ice for his development.
"The USHL gave Akira the experience of playing in the smaller North American rinks and playing the North American style that more closely resembles the NHL," Clemmensen added. "It forced him to adjust his game, for example - holding his feet longer as to move faster and in better control."
"Moving from the big ice surface in Europe to the smaller surface in North America is a big adjustment at all positions, including the goalie position," Clemmensen continued. "Plays happen faster, and the style of play is different than the European style of holding onto the puck longer and making more passing plays."
The Devils see strong attributes in Schmid as he continues his development. With goaltenders, patience is required.
"For a goalie to be ready to play a complete game in the NHL, without being in over his head, most often times means a couple of seasons in the AHL first," Clemmensen said. "Of course, there are exceptions to this depending on the individual."
"Akira has good size, athleticism and a solid technical game already in place," he says. "I believe his best attribute is his ability to read plays and let it come to him. This is a sign of a cool demeanor and high-panic level. Therefore, he can play patient and not have to constantly be chasing after the play."
And if anything, Schmid has discovered in himself not only that patience on the ice but off the ice as well, that the right opportunity will eventually come along.