High school defenseman Joe Schuldt, from Minnetonka, Minn., is next in our weekly Future Huskies series. Joe recently announced his commitment to Michigan Tech shortly after the Huskies' visit to Minnesota, where THG noticed Joe and couple other Skippers took a moment to talk with the Huskies coaching staff after the big win on Friday night.
Scouts really took notice of Joe during the last season of the Upper Midwest Elite League, where he played for Team Southwest. He's also been playing for the Minnetonka Skippers since he was a freshman. Joe is a steady defenseman, more of a shutdown guy than an offensive blueliner. At Minnetonka, Coach Brian Urick matches him up against the other team's top line regularly, so everyone gets a chance to see he can shut down elite players night in and night out. A good night for Joe is probably no points, a plus 1 or 2 rating, and no goals against. That's the role he plays for the Skippers and he appears to take a lot pride in that. He has to be considered one of the best defensive defensemen in Minnesota high school hockey.
Coach Urick's comments on what kind of player Joe is:[quote]Joe has been playing hockey for Minnetonka the last four years. It is very rare for a player in Minnesota to play high school as a freshman. Joe was able to do that because of his size and strength. As Joe has become an upperclassman he has really been a team leader for us. We are typically a small team that skates very well. Joe brings something to the table that our other players don't have. He is a "big time" hitter and has a real intimidating presence on our blue line. There are games where the other teams are afraid of him and he has all the time and space to make plays and skate with the puck. He also has the ability to skate. For his size he can really close on puck carriers fast.[/quote]
Schuldt is actually going to be a better junior/college player than high school player because he's a strong, tough kid and the physical, nasty game he plays doesn't translate as well for high school hockey in Minnesota. At the next level, he’ll be able to use his size and physical play much better. The Huskies are probably looking for him to step in and play a similar role to Carl Nielsen or Brad Stebner. Expect him to be drafted by a USHL team in this year's Entry Draft. Probably the only reason he wasn't drafted earlier was everyone knew he'd be returning to Minnetonka for his senior year and one more shot at getting back to Xcel Energy Center and the State Finals. If for some reason he doesn't catch on with a USHL team, look for him to head northwest to the BCHL. After his senior year, he'll need a year of junior hockey, maybe two, before he heads to Houghton. Before he's done as a Husky, though, he should end up a top four defenseman and play a huge role on the penalty kill unit.
When asked what Joe needs to improve before getting to college, here’s what Coach Urick had to say: [quote]What Joe will continue to need to work on next year playing juniors is his stick work when defending players. A big part of playing defense today is taking away passing and shooting lanes from the puck carrier. Also, Joe needs to work on reading when to step up and make a big hit. Sometimes he will get out of position to try and flatten someone, resulting in an odd man rush.[/quote]
Here's our interview with Minnetonka defenseman Joe Schuldt:
THG: You've made your decision to play college hockey at Michigan Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Husky and some of the other schools that contacted you?[quote]I spoke a little bit to St. Cloud State. I wasn't exactly dead set on making a decision right away in my Senior year, but [Michigan Tech] showed interest in me. I really liked the coaches and when I went up for my visit, [Houghton] really felt like home for me. Daniel Sova and Ryan Furne were my guys for the whole trip. I got to meet the team, but they really took me in.[/quote]
Joe made his visit to Houghton in December, shortly before the Huskies' trip to Mariucci to face the Gophers.
THG: You've played for Minnetonka all four years in high school and play alongside some great college prospects including Max Coatta, Vinnie Letteri and your brother Jimmy Schuldt. What has your time at Minnetonka including playing alongside your brother meant to you?[quote]Its been great. I've had a lot of fun experiences including the state tournament as a sophomore. I've gotten to play with and against a lot of great players like Max Gardiner, Sam Coatta, Justin Holl and Troy Hesketh. They're all great people that just treated me like another one of the guys.[/quote]
THG: Minnetonka is currently ranked 2nd and during you’re career you played in a Class AA title game against Edina. So far what is your favorite hockey moment?[quote]I think my favorite moment was the State Tournament [in 2010]. I was treated like a celebrity, even though I was just one of the younger guys, I got to just take it all in. It was a lot of fun spending time with team playing some hockey. Hopefully we'll get back there this season.[/quote]
THG: There are a couple of pairs of brothers currently on the Huskies (Pietilas and Johnstones). Have you and Jimmy talked at all about wanting to play college hockey together?[quote]We've thrown it around a little bit. He's still young, and he's just getting into the recruiting process, but it's definitely an option. He likes the Huskies too. He was with me at the U of M game when [the Huskies] played down here and he liked the way they played, too. Right now, I think he's worried about playing high school hockey and trying to have some fun with his friends. But, it would be a lot of fun to play with him.[/quote]
THG: The Huskies made a change to bring in Mel Pearson with his 23 years of experience next to Red Berenson at Michigan. How much did he play a role in your decision? Who recruited you and how did that whole process work out for you?[quote]Coach Whitten was my main contact. He came down here and set some stuff up including the meeting after the Gopher game. He was very friendly, he's a great guy and showed me what Michigan Tech has to offer. When I met Coach Pearson, I was very comfortable around him, I thought I could trust him. He's just a great coach and he's also a Minnesota guy, from Edina.[/quote]
THG: So the recruiting process didn't start before this season?[quote]Not before this season. I think the first time they saw me was in the [Upper Midwest] Elite League.[/quote]
THG: Your head coach, Brian Urick, said you're different than most Minnetonka players. The Skippers are normally made up of smaller, faster, players that skate very well. He called you an intimidating, "big time" player. Would you consider that accurate?[quote]I think so. I have my feet under me as best I can. I try to be just as good a skater as someone like Vinnie Letteri or Max Coatta but I think I am different. I kind of throw my weight around a little more. I try to keep the puck out of the zone, just be a shutdown defenseman. To me, it's a lot of fun playing that way, so I don't mind it.[/quote]
THG certainly noticed the contrast between Joe and the rest of the players out there versus Holy Angels. He was the only one really making any hits or getting physical with the other team.
THG: It's also been said that you're a physical, "nasty" player who will actually be better at the next level because your style doesn't translate as well to the Minnesota high school game. What do you think of that comment?[quote][laughs] I'll take that as a compliment, but I'm excited to go play juniors and college hockey. It's been my dream. I'm glad I have what it takes to make a difference. I'm looking forward to it, and I think it will be a lot of fun.[/quote]
THG: What do you think is your biggest weakness? Something you'll need to work on to become a better player at the college level?[quote]I think I have to work on my offensive game a little bit. Try and get up in the play more, worry about getting the puck to the front of net if I have a chance. I think other than that, its moving the puck a little quicker, making the harder passes. I've been told that's a big part of adjusting to the next level.[/quote]
THG: Anything you want Michigan Tech fans to know?[quote]Give me the benefit of the doubt. I may be a little bit goofy, but I'm really looking forward to being a Husky and Houghton is a great town.[/quote]
After chatting with Joe for this interview, Coach Urick's final thoughts on Joe's commitment to Michigan Tech seem to fit perfectly with the future Husky:[quote]Michigan Tech really has recruited a nice person and a competitor. He will definitely put in the work to become a good player for the Huskies.[/quote]
Stay tuned next week for another installment of Future Huskies.