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Chicago Blackhawks’ Prospects Well Represented in 2015 NCAA Frozen Four

By Skylar Peters
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The Chicago Blackhawks certainly have had a ton of success at hockey’s highest level over the past decade, with the team qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the past seven seasons, and taking it all home twice.

However, what makes the Blackhawks’ such an impressive organization is the depth of prospects in their system, from the AHL all the way down to major junior.

In-between those two levels is the NCAA, where the Blackhawks are well represented. Current Blackhawks to come out of college include Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp, and there will undoubtedly be more in the future.

As the NCAA hockey season winds down, we approach the Frozen Four, the pinnacle of Division I college ice hockey. In less than a week, a new champion will be crowned at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, and a future Blackhawk could very well be a part of it.

The Blackhawks will have four representatives playing for the NCAA title, on two separate teams. Along with the Calgary Flames, that number is the most out of any NHL clubs, with 36 draftees playing in the tournament this season.

Nick Schmaltz

Schmaltz is not only the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick last summer, at 20th overall, he is also the highest-drafted player in the tournament. Schmaltz put up 26 points in 37 games with the University of North Dakota, registering 21 assists and 5 goals in that time.

Schmaltz’s vision is his biggest asset, and his stats do not lie. A true playmaker, the freshman found himself at home in the Fighting Sioux’s top-six immediately, and has stuck ever since. Though he shines in the offensive zone, he has been defensively liable all year, finishing with a +5 rating heading in to the tournament.

Though two of Schmaltz’s teammates are also members of the Sioux, all eyes will undoubtedly be on Schmaltz during the tournament, as he will be a major factor in North Dakota’s chances to take home the championship.

Nick Mattson

Mattson is the longest-tenured Blackhawks’ prospect in the tournament, as a 2010 6th-round pick, at 180th overall. The left-handed defenseman has always been a producer for the Sioux, and this year was no different, registering 20 points in 37 games.

Mattson is one of the best two-way defensemen in the tournament, as his +11 rating will tell. The 23-year old senior will be leaned on in pressure situations to both produce offense, and shut down the opposition, something he has done consistently in his four years with North Dakota.

With the next step looming, look for Mattson to make an impact in his final collegiate games, and be a force on the blue-line for the Sioux.

Luke Johnson

Aside from Schmaltz, Luke Johnson may be the most interesting Blackhawks’ prospect to watch in the tournament. The 20-year old sophomore hails from a family with an impressive hockey pedigree, and Johnson is on his way to making his own name for himself in the near future.

Like Schmaltz, Johnson is at home in the offensive zone, finishing with 10 goals and 23 points in 41 games with the Sioux this season. Johnson doesn’t shy away from the physical game, and always makes his presence felt on the ice. He finished with 52 penalty minutes this season.

Johnson’s plus-11 rating is also impressive, and has many wondering just how the Blackhawks got him in the second-half of the 2013 Entry Draft, at 135th overall.

With Johnson set to make the decision to sign with the Blackhawks or continue his collegiate career after this season, he will certainly be one prospect to watch heading in to the tournament.

Luc Snuggerud

Snuggerud is the lone Blackhawks’ prospect in the tournament not playing for the Fighting Sioux. The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks defenseman was a fifth-round selection of the Blackhawks in 2014, drafted 141st overall.

Snuggerud’s heavy shot will make him a force on the power-play this coming weekend, but don’t be surprised if he makes an appearance as a penalty-killer as well, with a solid defensive game. Not afraid to put his body on the line, Snuggerud finished with 18 PIMs in 38 games this season.

Though his offensive numbers are slightly edged by that of Mattson’s, one could argue that both are equally important to their respective teams’ success. It will be interesting to see the two match up if they both make it to the Championship on April 11th. If the Mavericks want to punch their ticket, Snuggerud is certainly one player they will look to step up in the spotlight during the Frozen Four.

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