Brayden McNabb and Jeff Schultz to Battle for Seventh Spot


As fierce training camp battles are set to begin, there are limited roster-spots to compete for.

Brayden McNabb and Jeff Schultz will be competing for the seventh defensive spot on the roster.

The Kings have six solid defensemen in place.  Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Matt Greene, and Robyn Regehr.  The Kings lost veteran defender Willie Mitchell to free agency this past summer.  Mitchell could not be retained because of limited cap space.  According to the Kings are slightly under the cap by $208,000.

Mitchell’s vacancy opens up the seventh spot to be filled either by Schultz or McNabb.  Eleven other defensemen are Kings prospects that may be invited to camp.  Ten are not ready for the NHL, lacking refined skills that come with development at the lower levels.  Andrew Campbell is the only prospect, other than McNabb and Schultz, that has NHL experience.  Campbell played three games for the Kings in 2013-2014; he recorded 0 points and 4 shots.  McNabb and Schultz are the only two defensemen with one-way contracts: they would have to pass through waivers, and could potentially be claimed by another team, before being sent back down to the Kings AHL affiliate the Manchester Monarchs.

“Seven games was good enough to get on the Cup – punching his ticket to immortality.”

Hockey’s Future rates McNabb as a 7.5 on the prospect score.  The rating is an assumed maximum aptitude, suggesting McNabb could one day play as a regular third or forth defensemen on an NHL roster.  McNabb was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres at the 2014 trade deadline.  The Kings traded Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching for McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker, and two second round picks (one in the 2014 draft, one in 2015).  McNabb has yet to play a game in a Kings uniform.

McNabb played a total of 37 games in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres during two separate seasons.  McNabb has 8 career NHL points, 1 goal and 7 assists.  As an NHL defensemen McNabb gained a quick reputation as a physical player, with big-hits, standing up forwards in the neutral zone.  McNabb also has a strong shot from the point, which could be an asset to the power-play.

Playing at the NHL level also showcased some of McNabb’s weaknesses.  At the highest levels McNabb’s skating is exploited.  He is not the most agile or speedy skater and opposing forwards take advantage of this.  It could be the case that this is a factor of McNabb’s age (he’s 23 years old), and that he is still growing into his size.  McNabb also struggled to get the puck out of his own zone.  In today’s NHL that is one of the most critical aspects of a defensemen’s job.  Playmaking is another part of his game that needs to be addressed and developed.

Jeff Schultz, 28 years old, has more experience in the NHL with 399 games played.  Age can be a factor because it is an indicator that a

May 8, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) and Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino (13) battle for the puck during the second period in game three of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 10, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brayden McNabb (44) against the Ottawa Senators at First Niagara Center. Buffalo beats Ottawa 2 to 1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

player has less time, and potential to grow and develop.  Schultz played for the Washington Capitals for seven years, five as a regular on the roster.  In his career Schultz has 11 goals and 64 assists.

Schultz does have a trump card.  During the Kings 2014 Stanley Cup run Robyn Regehr sustained an injury during Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-final against the Anaheim Ducks.  Schultz stepped in and played seven games for the Kings, until Willie Mitchell returned from an injury.  Schultz was not great, but he was solid against a good Ducks team in a series that many say was the most significant playoff series in Southern California history.

Seven games was good enough to get Schultz’s name on the Cup – punching his ticket to immortality.  Schultz didn’t play in the final but was there to take part in the Kings post-game celebration ceremony.  He also got a day alone with Lord Stanley’s treasure.

On the downside, that was the only time Schultz has suited up for the Kings.  He has never played a regular season game with the team despite being called up for months at a time.  Schultz struggles to move the puck up ice, and can’t keep up with elite-first line players.  Schultz’s style is traditional stay-at-home defense, which explains his lack of offensive production.  That’s where McNabb has an advantage over him.

Over an 82-game season injuries will happen.  Both McNabb and Schultz are likely to play in a Kings uniform a some point during the 2014-2015 season.  Currently McNabb is listed on the Kings 2014-2015 roster on the Kings website.  Schultz is not.

It will be an interesting battle to watch out for at training camp.  Who will start up with the Kings, and who will have to keep fighting to get that next spot and the chance to play in the show.