Seen as one of the top prospects in the Blackhawks organization for the last few years, Nick Schmaltz joining the team this summer made a big impact behind the words of the organization to focus on the future. Schmaltz, the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has seen success at the NCAA level and looks to turn that into NHL success with Chicago.
Looked at as a Toews-like player who can play both the Center and Wing position, Schmaltz’s versatility makes him invaluable to the Blackhawks. He’ll more than likely start the season as Chicago’s fourth-line Center alongside Hinostroza and Jordin Tootoo, furthering the notion that in today’s NHL, balance along the forward-lines is more valuable than the old-school sense of top-six producers and bottom-six grinders and goons.
Prediction: 7G, 25A, 32 Pts
Don’t be surprised if Schmaltz plays his way into the third-line Center position and the Blackhawks want to move Marcus Kruger back into his normal fourth-line Center spot. Schmaltz has the ability to be a top-six forward in the league, and if he makes the most of his time early on, he could see a wing spot on the top-line if Marian Hossa or Richard Panik don’t keep their opening night positions throughout the season.
Last season looked promising for Ryan Hartman to get another crack at the NHL and to make an impression on the organization that he was ready to make the jump. Unfortunately, his stint last season was only three games. Now heading into his third season with the Blackhawks organization, Hartman looks to be cementing his his place as a regular for Chicago.
Slated to start the season on the third-line, Hartman brings a psychical, two-way style of play to the Blackhawks that they need to mix with the skill and speed that Chicago has in their top-six forward positions.
More from Blackhawk Up
- Blackhawks: Three Noticeable Improvements in Comeback Win vs Blues
- Blackhawks: Key Takeaways from 3-2 win over the Blues
- Blackhawks: Grading Connor Murphy and a position comparison
- Blackhawks: Shuffling the lines to try and spark offense at 5 on 5
- These Lineup Changes could Solve the Blackhawks’ Scoring Problem
Prediction: 4G, 11A, 15Pts
Giving Hartman a role with Kruger and Motte on the Blackhawks’ third-line makes it feel like the organization is confident that he can keep up with his line-mates both offensively and defensively. Teams want their third-line to be able to do good work in all three zones of the ice, and Hartman has the opportunity right out of the gate to show his real value as a 200-foot player.
The Blackhawks’ defensive-core last season was their biggest weakness and it showed late in the season and into their Stanley Cup Playoff match-up against the St. Louis Blues. Chicago made it a big point to address the issues on the blue-line and the prospect group on defensive has actually made as much of an impact on the improvement of the defense as the addition of Brian Campbell has.
Two players in particular will be big factors in the future of the Blackhawks defensive group and neither one, at this time, is named Ville Pokka. Who knew?