In the midst of the holiday season, USA Hockey announced on that Nick Schmaltz has been selected to for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships roster. The roster consists of 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. This is Schmaltz’s second straight selection to Team USA. Schmaltz is the Blackhawks’ 2014 first-round draft pick out of the University of North Dakota. He was the 26th overall pick.
In last year’s tournament, Schmaltz registered one assist in five tournament appearances. Team USA finished fifth last season and hopes an expanded role for Schmaltz this time around will help the team. Schmaltz appears ready for a larger role this season. Schmaltz has recorded 26 points (three goals and 23 assists) in 20 games with the University of North Dakota this season. He has matched his point total from last season in eight fewer games this season.He also has the highest plus/minus rating in the NCAA at plus-29. He is tied for the NCAA lead with 23 assists, and his 26 points ranks him fourth among NCAA players this year.
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In November, Schmaltz was named the NCAA Conference Player of the Month. He collected 15 points (two goals and 13 assists) and a plus-14 rating in eight games. He lead the nation in primary assists (seven), even-strength assists (10) and game-winning assists (four). Schmaltz joins Vincent Hinostroza as a current Blackhawks prospect to play with Team USA at IIHF World Junior Championships.
Schmaltz is among four Blackhawks prospects to make the IIHF World Junior Championships for their respective countries this year. Radovan Bondra (Slovakia, 2015 fifth-round pick), Gustav Forsling (Sweden, acquired in Adam Clendening trade) and Joni Tuulola (Finland, 2015 sixth-round pick) will also be playing in the tournament.
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Schmaltz joins top NHL prospect Auston Matthews on Team USA. Matthews is currently playing with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League. Matthews is one of the first top NHL prospects to not be playing in major juniors or the NCAA before entering the draft. According to scouts, Matthews should be the best player in the tournament because of his “all-around headiness and offensive nature.” Some scouts have even compared Matthews to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. Kopitar and Toews have a combined five Stanley Cup championships. Toews also has a Conn Smythe Trophy and Selke Trophy. Kopitar is a two-time Selke Trophy finalist.
The IIHF World Junior Championships run from today to January 5 in Helsinki, Finland. Team USA began play today against Team Canada and defeated the Canadians 4-2 for their first preliminary-round win over Canada since 1998. Schmaltz recorded two shots on goal in the victory.