Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Braden Schneider showcased a strong physical, defensive game during his first two seasons with Brandon of the Western Hockey League. But to make it to the next level he's focused on rounding out his game with more offense.
The 18-year-old right-shot defenseman has 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 25 games, which puts him ahead of his scoring pace from last season when he had 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 58 games.
"I want to improve every part of my game but the big thing would be improving in the offensive zone and working on my two-way game a little bit more," Schneider said. "I'm not sure I'll be given it but I'm sure I'll work for it and I'll try to prove myself and hopefully get more opportunities in that end of the ice."
Brandon general manager Darren Ritchie said he believes Schneider has the ability to be as good in the offensive zone as he has proven to be in the defensive zone.
"I don't think his mindset is to jump into the play all the time and get points," Ritchie said. " I think he takes care of his end and when he has those opportunities he will jump into the play. We saw it more in the second half of [last] season where he would join the rush as the fourth man to join the forwards. He does that more. He's going to do it again more this year. He has a really good shot, he probably doesn't get enough credit for it as well."
Schneider received an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list.
"He's solid on his skates and moves the puck like an NHL player, similar to Ryan Pulock (New York Islanders)," Peter Sullivan of Central Scouting said. "Brandon is struggling, but good players stand out on a bad team and he stands out. He's got very good hockey sense and decision making. He's tough to play against, and he's a player, that from a coach's perspective, you can play him in any situation."
Rounding out his game would help Schneider (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) further emulate the players he most often watches in the NHL, Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues.
"Weber and Pietrangelo are bigger guys that take pride in their own end," Schneider said. "They can produce offensively but they're big, hard guys to play against. ... Weber, he's just a hard guy to play against and takes pride in every game he's in and is always ready to go and you don't want to go up against him in the corner."
Schneider also has a chance to follow Weber and Pietrangelo and as high NHL draft picks. Weber was chosen by the Nashville Predators in the second round (No. 49) of the 2003 Draft, and Pietrangelo was selected by the Blues with the No. 4 pick of the 2008 Draft.
Seven of his teammates with Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup were chosen in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, and conversations with them have given him an idea of what to expect this season.
"They've been telling me a lot of what it was like to go through it and they helped me out, figure out, paint a picture in my mind of what it's going to be like," Schneider said.
And what did that picture look like?
"It looks overwhelming but enjoyable and a dream come true," he said.
Schneider said he's trying to take things day by day and not look too far down the road. Ritchie said he doesn't believe Schneider will have any issues dealing with the pressure this season.
"He's got great maturity," Ritchie said. "The kids know it's their year of getting drafted. He's well-prepared. He's seen the last couple years our players with Luka Burzan (Colorado Avalanche), Stelio Mattheos (Carolina Hurricanes, what they had to deal with. It reminds me a lot of Ryan Pulock that we had. Ryan played two years, exactly the same as Braden, played against the top players and then his third year all of a sudden everyone is here watching him all the time. They've seen it and I think that will help him. He'll be fine."
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