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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Justin Schultz

Penguins defenseman reflects on year since trade from Oilers

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz:

 

PITTSBURGH -- Defenseman Justin Schultz joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers one year ago Monday without a shred of confidence. A year later he's the perfect example of how the NHL Trade Deadline has a way of changing lives and careers in a positive way.

"Last year I was sitting on my couch on Feb. 27 kind of waiting to see what was going to happen," Schultz said. "Definitely a lot has changed since then."

So often we hear about the difficult circumstances a player has to deal with when he gets traded in the days or hours leading up to the trade deadline. It's hard on families, friends and teammates. It's an emotional time for the player.

Schultz felt all those emotions when he left the Oilers for a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, but he also felt he needed a change for a new chance to prove himself. He has made good on it with the Penguins.

Schultz helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup last season. He had four assists and averaged 13:00 of ice time in 15 Stanley Cup Playoffs games. He signed a one-year, $1.4 million contract on July 13, 2016, and has turned into one of the Penguins' best defensemen this season.

He leads Penguins defensemen with 39 points and a plus-31 rating averaging 19:19 of ice time per game. Schultz is tied for seventh among NHL defensemen in points and is fourth in plus/minus. He has a 52.12 shot-attempts percentage.

Schultz talked to NHL.com about how and why everything has changed for him since joining leaving the Oilers, where he said he felt his career was fading away, to the Penguins, where he has been rejuvenated and now is reaching the potential he had when he arrived in the NHL as a college free agent in 2013.

Here are Five Questions with… Justin Schultz:

It's a year since you've been traded. Now think about what a life-changing event that was for you considering what has happened in the past year. Can you take me through those thoughts? Do you ever wonder what your life would be like now and how you'd be feeling, where you'd be even, if you weren't traded to the Penguins?

"It was crazy. I knew it was coming but still when you find out you get traded it's a crazy feeling. I've never had that before. Obviously things weren't going too well for me in Edmonton. It was time for a change and I got a great opportunity to come here. Great teammates. They welcomed me. Obviously we had tons of success last year. I got my confidence back and I'm having fun playing again, which is good.

"I don't know where I'd be if I didn't get traded. Maybe I'm still there. My confidence was at an all-time low and I needed a change of scenery. I've got nothing against Edmonton at all. I enjoyed my time there. It was tough to get traded. I had a lot of good friends there, met a lot of people. But it was time for a change of scenery and it worked out well."

With the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline approaching do you ever take time to look back at where you were and how far you've come? Or is that not a thought for you anymore?

"You still think about it a little bit, but it's in the past. It's different now when you've been traded. You kind of come to this day and you're a little nervous now. I've never had that before. Hopefully we'll get past that. I don't think I have any reason to be nervous, but it's this day, anything can happen. You see crazy things all the time."

Video: PIT@STL: Schultz hammers a one-timer from down low

What has [Penguins defenseman coach] Sergei Gonchar done for you and what specific elements of your game has he helped you improve?

"Sergei just preached all the little details of the game, like stick position, where your feet are when you're on the offensive blue line. It's all the little things you never really think about. I started to focus on that and it helped me with my overall game and I started feeling better. He's been huge for me. I'm sure glad he's here."

Did you do a lot of video work with Gonchar?

"We did at the start, and it wasn't even just on me. We were watching guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson, some of the things they've done offensively. It was when I first got here last year. We watched things they did with the puck, how they played the game. We started focusing on things like that and it helped me out a lot. I would still see video of myself, but that was the first thing, he just wanted to show me with Lidstrom, his position all the time in the defensive zone and he never got beat. He wanted to show me that you don't have to run over guys or anything, just be in good position, good stick position. Like I said, it's the little details. We started focusing on that and it helped me. It was just trying to take care of the [defensive] zone, be comfortable in the [defensive] zone, be relied on there. If you take care of that part you're going to get the puck back and you'll be on offense. That's the fun part of the game. I just learned to focus in on that. I've been trying to improve that since I first came in the NHL and it's finally starting to turn around."

Could you get a sense after growing to be a part of the team last season and winning the Stanley Cup that you could take your game to the next level this season? Did you think you would have this type of season coming off the Cup run?

"Yeah, winning the Stanley Cup, I mean, that gives you confidence right there. With this group of guys, obviously I love being here. It's a fun place to play. I had a good summer training even though it was short. I came in with the attitude to help this team any way I could. I got off to a good start. I didn't get many points off the start but I felt like I was playing well defensively. I've just been focusing on that, trying to take care of that part of my game knowing the offense will come."

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