Blackhawks of the future
The Blackhawks have a good amount of organizational depth up front with promising forwards like Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman. As well, the Blackhawks boast a few defensive prospects that have already had a good look at the NHL level this year like Viktor Svedberg and Erik Gustafsson, but also have a solid player in Ville Pokka who has yet to break into the NHL after two successful season with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
The one Achilles heel of the Blackhawks’ future prospects system seems to be at the goaltender position. Other than Corey Crawford, who played a sizable amount of time in the AHL with Rockford before making the jump to the NHL, the Blackhawks’ depth and future in the net seems to be in question. The best prospect Chicago boasts is Matt Tomkins of Ohio State.
Ryan Hartman — Hartman originally committed to playing hockey at Miami University in 2010, but ended up getting drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Plymouth Whalers in the fifth round of the 2010 Priority Draft. Before skating with Plymouth, though, Hartman was selected for the U.S. Hockey Development program in Michigan and joined its U17 team.
From there, Hartman continued to the U18 US Development program team, finishing his U18 season as the second-leading scorer and winning a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
In the 2012-13 season, Hartman was the third-leading scorer for Plymouth and was part of the U.S. team that won a gold medal at the 2013 U20 World Junior Championship. Hartman was a first-round-rated talent and was selected 30th overall by the Blackhawks in 2013. After being selected with Chicago’s first-round pick, Hartman spent most of his time with the Whalers for a second season before making his pro debut in March of 2014 with the Rockford IceHogs. Hartman would go on to make his NHL debut in February of 2015, playing in five game with the Blackhawks before finishing the season in Rockford.
Hartman has continued to excel as a well-rounded winger for the IceHogs, playing in every situation for the Blackhawks’ affiliate. His size is less than desirable, but his tenacity and willingness to play a physical game makes him a top young talent with Chicago. His future with the big team looks to be on the horizon if he can match his physical, gritty play with the offensive scoring touch he has shown in spurts at the AHL level. His ability to play a two-way game makes him versatile for the Blackhawks and could play as a mix of Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad at the NHL level.
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Tyler Motte — Motte has been a highly touted talent since he was 16 years old. After leading his U16 team to the USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championship, he committed to the University of Michigan. Like Hartman before him, Motte played for the U.S. Development program in Michigan, on the U17 team. Motte led the U17 team in multiple international tournaments, helping it to first-place finishes in the 2011 Four Nations Tournament and the 2012 Vlad Dzurilla Tournament. Motte would return to the U.S. Development program to join the U18 team and was part of the silver medal-winning U.S. squad at the 2013 U18 World Junior Championship.
Motte was a mid-round prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft rankings, and in the same draft as Hartman, Motte was selected by the Blackhawks in the fourth round, 121st overall. Motte played in 34 of 35 games as freshman at the University of Michigan in 2013-14, scoring nine goals and adding nine assists. As a sophomore, Motte scored nine goals again, but would rank third on the team with 22 assists as Michigan finished third in the Big Ten and advanced to the conference tournament championship game. Motte would also log time with Team USA at the U20 World Juniors and the World Junior Championships.
As a college junior, Motte has led the Wolverines to their first NCAA tournament berth in his time at the school, scoring 55 points in 37 games, which ranks third on the team overall.
Motte is a smaller-sized, effort-based forward. His offensive game is not flashy, but he works well with his linemates and knows where to go to score. He has seen ample time on the penalty kill with Michigan and seems to fit the type of speed and smarts style of hockey the Blackhawks organization stresses. Motte seems to be the kind of player who thrives in a second- or third- line role to provide energy and a secondary scoring option, while being able to serve as an asset on the penalty kill.
Nick Schmaltz — A Wisconsin native, Schmaltz’s career jumped out in 2011 when he made both his USHL and USA Development program debuts. With the Green Bay Gamblers, Schmaltz played 11 games with four points. He also played with the U.S. U16 team at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012, tallying six points as the U.S. would finish fourth in the tournament.
Following his 2012 season, Schmaltz committed to play hockey in college at the University of North Dakota before being selected 76th overall by the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL Priority Draft.
Schmaltz was one of four players to play in all 64 games for the Gamblers in 2012-13 and was Green Bay’s fourth-leading scorer as a 16 year old. The following year, he would lead the Gamblers in scoring in his second full USHL season. Schmaltz also played for Team USA in numerous international tournaments, including the Ivan Hlinka tournament and the U19 World Junior A Challenge.
He went on to be selected by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, 20th overall, after being ranked as a first-round prospect in North America. Schmaltz joined his older brother Jordan at the University of North Dakota and had 26 points in 38 games for the Fighting Sioux as a freshman. North Dakota would get an at-large big to the NCAA tournament and advance to the Frozen Four before falling to Boston University. Along with Motte, Schmaltz played for the U.S. U20 team in the 2015 World Juniors and has helped North Dakota back to the NCAA tournament in 2016.
Another top-end, two-way player in the Blackhawks system, Schmaltz boasts quality play-making abilities with great hands and control of the puck. Where he fits into the Blackhawks system may take a little while to learn, much like the development of Teravainen. He may play a season or two with the IceHogs in the AHL to completely round out his skills, but Schmaltz looks to eventually be a top-six forward for Chicago who could play meaningful time on the powerplay.