Blackhawk Up had the chance to talk with Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald and the College Hockey Today Podcast to discuss his thoughts on former North Dakota Fighting Hawk and current Chicago Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz
The Chicago Blackhawks are rebuilding.
Not to the extent of the Bears or White Sox, but a sort of on-the-fly retool as a result of two embarrassing first round playoff defeats. Age, the salary cap, and an inability to keep prospects, among other reasons, has prevented the Blackhawks from recent playoff success and from forming a plan to succeed some of their great players who are getting older.
Because of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane take up almost 30% of the salary cap, the ‘Hawks are designed to pay their core group of players and surround them with low-cost veterans and young talent on entry-level contracts. Due to their success during the regular season, the Blackhawks generally pick late in the 1st round which puts a lot of pressure on their front office to find contributing players late in the draft.
One of those players is Nick Schmaltz.
Schmaltz was taken 20th overall by the Blackhawks in 2014 and has become an everyday player with the Blackhawks. After several changes made over the summer to the team, Schmaltz will be given the first opportunity this to grab a top six role, and possibly be the eventual second line center of the future given his talent and skill set.
“…in my 12 years covering North Dakota, I’ve never seen anyone with better vision than Schmaltz.”
This week Blackhawk Up spoke with Brad Schlossman who covers the North Dakota Fighting Hawks for the Grand Forks Herald and co-hosts the College Hockey Today Podcast. He had some insight on Nick Schmaltz and what he expects from the Blackhawks forward in Year 2 of his NHL career.
Interview with Brad Schlossman
1. What can you tell us about Nick Schmaltz after covering him at North Dakota and watching his transition to the pro level?
BS: He’s a guy who vastly improved his game from Year 1 to Year 2 in college, and I’m expecting the same with the Blackhawks. He’s an extremely good athlete — guys on the team said that he would win in almost any other sport they picked up like ping pong and basketball — and he has elite hockey skills. Blackhawks fans saw it at times last year and I think you’ll see it even more as his career progresses.
2. Schmaltz improved his production by 30 points during his second season at North Dakota. What were the biggest contributing factors in your opinion?
BS: Schmaltz’s defensive play and consistency vastly improved and that led to more production. As a freshman, he had the talent, but you might have only seen it a few times a game. His sophomore year, he was a menace shift after shift. He is elite at stripping the puck away from guys by lifting their sticks from behind. I’ve seen him do it at the NHL level, too. Often times, he forced turnovers and that led to offense for his line. He also fit perfectly on a line with Drake Caggiula (Edmonton) and Brock Boeser (Vancouver). Both of those guys are finishers. Schmaltz is a terrific setup man.
3. It seems like the Blackhawks eventually want Schmaltz to be the 2nd line center behind fellow Fighting Hawk Jonathan Toews. What similarities do you see between the two if any?
BS: They are different personalities and different types of players. They impact games in different ways. If there’s one big similarity, maybe it’s that they both can impact games in ways that aren’t noticed by casual fans. Goal scorers get the focus and the limelight a lot more than setup men, but in my 12 years covering North Dakota, I’ve never seen anyone with better vision than Schmaltz.
4. Schmaltz struggled in the face-off circle last year (31%). Do you believe he has the traits to be a top six NHL centerman?
BS: He was never dominant in the face-off circle at UND, either, but he will improve those numbers. He played some wing at UND, too, but he was best at center.
5. Do you think top NHL prospects like Schmaltz should spend time in the American Hockey League before making the jump to the NHL or does it vary from player to player?
BS: Every player is different. Every position is different. For college guys, it often depends on when they leave school (and what type of player they are).
6. With a possible addition of a University of Illinois hockey team, how will the Big Ten Conference and college hockey as a whole be affected?
BS: Illinois would be warmly welcomed by both the Big Ten and the NCAA if it does decide to add the sport. The more, the merrier. And with no Division I teams in the state — and lots of elite players coming from Illinois — the Illini would have an opportunity to be good pretty quickly.