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April 2, 2013, 12:51 PM ET

Washington Signs Nate Schmidt, Ducks Sign Steven Whitney

by Corey Pronman

Nate Schmidt, Defense, Washington Capitals (Minnesota):

Washington got one of the top free agents in this college class in Nate Schmidt. The 21 year old Junior was a first team All-Star in the WCHA this season and tied for 3rd in defensemen scoring in the NCAA. He was 2nd in defensemen scoring in 2011-12.

Schmidt is a dynamic offensive defenseman as you could imagine with those numbers. He’s a high-end puck handler and passer who has wowed observers in the NCAA on many occasions with his skill. He’s a creative player with great offensive instincts who projects to play on an NHL team’s power play, if not their top unit. He skates well and while he doesn’t score a lot, there’s potential in his shot too. The concerns with Schmidt has been his defensive and physical game. The former I thought showed progression this season, as he started to log more tough minutes and be used in critical situations. I doubt he’ll ever be a better than average defensive player, but there’s a possibility he can play at a high enough level to survive given his other tools. Schmidt is also slightly undersized and I question how he’ll be able to handle NHL-level physicality.

He projects as a top four defenseman in the NHL and while I lean to seeing him get some AHL time first, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s utilized by Washington in an NHL line up from the get go. If you don’t count Orlov as a prospect anymore, Schmidt instantly becomes the top young defense prospect in the Capitals organization.

Steven Whitney, Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks (Boston College):

Whitney who was a Senior at BC this season, was named a first team All-Star in the Hockey East conference and given the Walter Brown award for the best American playing in New England. He was 2nd on his team in scoring, and ended the season 11th in scoring in the nation.

Whitney is a skilled all-around player who can attack other teams with his speed, puck skills or vision. He’s a fluid, powerful skater and has the offensive awareness to always make the right plays. He plays a hard two-way game and doesn’t mind getting involved in the rough stuff. The drawback for Whitney is that he’s 5′7′’. I’m not sure if he has that top-end skill you want in a small guy, but he’s certainly pretty talented and a guy who at the least has a chance to get to the NHL level and be an ok second line winger.

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