2015 NHL Draft: Schemitsch adapting well to defensive duties

By Jason Menard
Thomas Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack

Photo: Owen Sound Attack defenseman and 2015 prospect Thomas Schemitsch is the brother of Geoffrey Schemitsch, a former draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning now playing for Acadia University (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

It was only a couple of years ago that Owen Sound Attack defender Thomas Schemitsch made the switch to the blueline. And now he finds himself on Central Scouting’s coveted “Ones to Watch” list for the 2015 NHL Draft. Schemitsch hopes to continue his ascent up the draft boards by doing the little things right.

“I just need to keep it simple. Play a 200-foot game,” Schemitsch explained. “I want to just be reliable and not have the coach hesitate when it comes to putting you in certain situations, or not trusting you. That’s all the matters.”

Attack head coach Greg Ireland said that Schemitsch’s development has been in leaps and bounds, considering he got a late start on the blueline.

“The thing about Thomas that you have to remember is that he’s only played two-and-a-half years of defense. He was a forward all the way through up until half-way through his minor-midget year,” he said. “His instincts, his reads on the ice are good. He’s got great poise. His feet have improved a ton over the past year and so has his defensive and physical game. He’s not going to knock guys through the boards when he plays the body, but his understanding of the d-position is growing every day.”

Schemitsch was given a C-grade on the “Ones to Watch” list. The 6’4” defenseman said he’s not surprised by his positioning, but he’s also not satisfied with it.

“I found out the day it came out. It came up on my Twitter feed and I saw it. It was pretty cool, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised about where I was,” he explained. “It was something I started looking at last year, just trying to put myself on the map.

“I’ve just got to take what I’ve got and work with it. I need to keep working hard and hopefully spin that C into a B or more. “

As a rookie last season, Schemitsch finished with six goals and 17 points in 63 games for the Attack. This year, in eight games to start the season, he’s producing at almost a point-per-game clip — seven points in eight games, and his plus-minus has gone from -15 to +7 so far this season. At 6’4“, he’s got the size that makes him hard to miss, but Ireland said his young rearguard still is able to fly under the radar.

“It’s not just his size, but his vision of the game. Every night you may come out and not notice him at all, but he’s got two or three points,” Ireland said. “He makes passes to the quiet areas and he makes things happen. Obviously, having size and being able to win the puck battles goes a long way.”

Schemitsch knows there are eyes in the crowd watching him as it’s his draft-eligible year. He said he does his best to put it out of mind, but also is thankful that he has a support network on the squad.

“It’s definitely something that’s in the back of your mind and it’s something that you have to put away when game time comes,” he explained. “You can’t get rattled by mistakes and you can’t let those things eat you up.

“Chris [Bigras] is my locker mate, I’m sitting right beside him all the time and I’m always asking him stuff. Nasty [Zach Nastasiuk] and Platzy [Kyle Platzer] — I’m always asking them stuff, too. Even guys who went to camp but weren’t drafted, I’m always trying to pick their brains and learn what they did to get noticed.”

And the advice he’s been receiving has been fairly uniform.

“It’s usually just keep it simple — there are always going to be people watching you, so you can’t get rattled by little things,” he said. “Just play your game and don’t move out of your game style.”

Ireland said his defenseman needs to work on aspects of his game, but that he’s on the right track — especially considering the late conversion.

“The main thing is to clean his feet up, be a little more physical,” Ireland said. “We want him to continue his defensive zone presence.”

Schemitsch said he agrees, focusing on specific aspects of his development. “Just always working on getting faster and stronger. Doing all those things in the gym and on the ice,” he said. “Even when you’re doing drills, focusing on quick starts and working on your stride.”

And while the Thornhill, ON-born defender has a favorite squad — “Definitely the Leafs” — he’s willing to extend his youthful dream of pulling on the blue-and-white to more squads.

“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about and it would be really cool,” he said. “But in the end it doesn’t matter who picks me up — it’s just going to be a dream come true.”

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard