Barons rookie defenseman Justin Schultz is not only the top scoring blue liner in the American Hockey League two weeks into the season, he’s tied for the league lead with three forwards.
Schultz recorded three assists in Oklahoma City’s 4-3 win Tuesday night over the Lake Erie Monsters.
Through five games, Schultz has notched nine points, including four goals.
“I didn’t have a clue I’d be where I am (in the AHL scoring race),” Schultz said. “That’s what happens when you’re on the ice with Nuge and Ebs.”
Schultz was referring to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, two young Edmonton Oilers stars that are playing with the Barons during the lockout.
For Schultz, a two-time All-American at Wisconsin, playing with the Barons is his pro debut.
Using a loophole to become a free agent after his junior year with the Badgers, Schultz signed with Edmonton in large part to play to play with Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Taylor Hall, another young Oilers star who could join the Barons as early as next week.
“How much fun is it playing with them?” Schultz said. “It’s a blast. You just get the puck to them and watch them go to work. They couldn’t be stopped (Tuesday) night.”
Schultz, though, has shown why he will be an instant NHL starter once the lockout ends. Last week he was named the AHL Player of the Week.
In the home opener, a win over San Antonio, Schultz notched two short-handed goals and recorded a franchise record plus-5. In a loss to Lake Erie Saturday night, he unveiled a fancy move to get around Monsters defenseman Cameron Gaunce for a highlight-reel goal.
“I kind of blacked out there. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Schultz said. “I usually don’t get many one-on-ones with a goalie.”
Schultz’s hot start has created a buzz among his former Wisconsin teammates.
“They’re all congratulating me on a good start and my friends and family are able to see, too,” Schultz said. “But this is only a start. There’s a lot more games in this league than in school. We would only play 41 or 42 a year, max.”
Game No. 6 with the Barons is Friday night at the Cox Convention Center when they host the Houston Aeros.