2014: Nick Schmaltz, 1st round, 20th overall
Winning an NCAA Championship is a pretty good accomplishment. Schmaltz was no passenger in North Dakota’s title run this year, tallying 11 goals and a team-best 35 assists in 37 games for the Fighting Hawks. Schmaltz also committed just three penalties and had the same number of game-winning goals on the season. That’s a good look for someone who wants to be a key contributor to the Blackhawks.
Schmaltz is just a junior-to-be at North Dakota, so it could be some time before we see him in Chicago. Or he could decide to leave school early, with a national title under his belt. Regardless, Schmaltz projects as the best pick of the Blackhawks’ 2014 class. All you need to see is this first sentence from his review on Hockey’s Future: “Schmaltz is a talented two-way forward.” Ding ding ding.
2015: Graham Knott, 2nd round, 54th overall
Considering how soon it is after this draft, and that the Blackhawks didn’t have a first-round choice in it, the team’s top overall pick is going to be the “winner” until further notice.
Knott is a big boy already, checking in at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. He could put on some more muscle, certainly, but one would hope he can turn into a wing who wins board battles and can carry the puck into the zone with relative ease in order to set up scoring plays.
Knott has had an alright run with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, tallying 49 goals and 68 assists in 226 games. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a run he gets in the next Blackhawks training camp.