Beau Schmitz may have only signed with the Hurricanes this spring but he has been on the team's radar for quite awhile. He was invited to play with the team at the Traverse City prospect tournament in each of the last two seasons and has played for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL for the last four years, a team owned by Peter Karmanos Jr. The Hurricanes finally decided to ink him to a three year, entry-level contract in March after he had a terrific season as captain for Whalers. Schmitz tallied 14 goals and 54 points in 62 games with Plymouth this year. His 14 goals ranked him fourth among OHL defensemen and his 40 assists ranked him third. He was also named to the OHL's third All-Star team.
I'm not sure how far Schmitz will make it in the pros because he only emerged as a major threat in this most recent season and he just turned 21, so we might have to wait and see how he does against older competition before we know what his full potential is. It is hard to ignore what he did last year, though. He was the top defensemen on a very good Plymouth team that featured Carolina's 2010 third round pick, Austin Levi and was one of the better offensive blue-liners in the OHL last season. Schmitz's offensive instincts have been well-documented but he seemed to take things to another level this year with his offensive output. He also racked up a lot of penalty minutes due to being involved in more than a few scraps.
Because Schmitz has played four years in the OHL and now has an ELC, it's very likely that we could see him in Charlotte next season but he might have some competition depending on what happens with Marc-Andre Gragnani and Bobby Sanguinetti. There are only so many spots available but I think Schmitz has to take the next step to the pros next season because he was already an overager at the junior level and I'm sure he would rather play with the Checkers than go to the ECHL.
Schmitz is an overager who went undrafted and most players like that don't turn into anything special but I think he showed a good amount of potential last season with the Whalers. The Hurricanes clearly saw something with him since they decided to give him an ELC, so it's possible that he may have a good future with the Checkers but I'm not sure what will happen after that. There have been a lot of players who have gone on to have careers despite going undrafted, so maybe Schmitz will fit into that category but we probably won't know until another year.
As for right now, Schmitz is good enough to be considered one of the Hurricanes better young players. Yes, he was competing against younger competition in the OHL but it's hard for me to argue with the results he put up there. Plus, he is still only 21, so he could easily move his way up this list if he has a good season with the Checkers. I think he has more than a fighting chance to make the roster there and could be one of their top defensemen if he can build on his success in Plymouth the last couple of seasons.
You want your prospects to get better as they get older and Schmitz has been able to do that so far, which is why he made the list. If he can keep getting better while playing against tougher competition in the AHL then he might have more promising of a future than some may have previously thought.