When the Chicago Blackhawks signed their Top Prospect Nick Schmaltz there was a buzz with the fanbase. Schmaltz had just helped the University of North Dakota win the NCAA National Championship. Schmaltz made the Blackhawks out of training camp and big things were expected.
When the regular season began scouts and people like myself noticed that Schmaltz was deferring to older more experienced players. Instead of taking a shot, he would pass to Jonathan Toews or a Marian Hossa. His lack of aggression was costing the Blackhawks good scoring opportunities early on in the season.
Schmaltz Sent Down To Rockford
Finally after 26 games, the Blackhawks had seen enough. He had one goal and one assist before being sent down. Schmaltz was sent back down to Rockford to refine his game with Ten Dent and the Ice Hogs. Dent has been the head coach at Rockford since 2011 but an assistant coach before that with Bill Peters. He has worked in Rockford for 9 season and has the most games in the Franchise history coached. He has helped develop Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Bickell, Troy Brouwer, and Kris Versteeg in the past. He has recently help develop Tanner Kero and Vincent Hinostroza.
Ted Dent Mentors Schmaltz
So when Schmaltz went down to Rockford to refine his game, I knew he was in good hands. During his stint at Rockford, he has 6 goals and 3 assists in 12 games. The goals were the stats that stood out the most. In order to score goals, a player has to shoot the puck something Schmaltz was not doing at the NHL level. At Rockford, He got over his “tentative” play style and got more aggressive. Dent and his staff gave him some confidence.
The confidence that Dent and his staff helped Schmaltz refine at the AHL level has translated to the NHL level. Schmaltz has returns to being a top-line player like he was in college. Since his return on January 15th, he has 4 goals and 6 assists. In his last six games, he has two goals and five assists. With his strong play Schmaltz is making a very strong case to remain on the top-line with Toews.
Toews benefiting from Schmaltz
Toews has stated recently that he wants consistency with his linemates. Thus far playing with Schmaltz and Richard Panik has benefited the Captain. Toews who was “suffering” through a scoring drought has broken the dam and now points are coming in a waves. Toews has 20 points since January 22th and lead the NHL during the time frame. He has 8 goals and 12 assists.
It seems to me that Toews has finally found his left winger.