In every NHL draft we come along a number of prospects that carry familiar names, some even historic. The 2013 draft was no exception, with names such as Domi, Rychel, Bertuzzi, Tambellini, and Subban resurfacing throughout the course of the draft. If you’ve already ventured into your 2014 draft research, you've probably already seen some recognizable names that may have jumped off the page.
Nick Schmaltz is the USHL’s representative in this discussion. The Green Bay Gamblers' forward enters the season as one of the top American-born prospects in the 2014 draft class, and he also happens to be the younger brother of St. Louis Blues prospect, Jordan Schmaltz, a former Green Bay defenseman and the 25th player taken in the 2012 draft.
Jordan was drafted by St. Louis following a solid 2011-12 season which he split between the Sioux City Musketeers and Green Bay. Nick joined the Gamblers for 11 games that season as a 15-year-old, and scored a goal and three assists while Jordan was an ace on the blueline and helped Green Bay capture its second Clark Cup in three seasons. Jordan is entering his sophomore year at the University of North Dakota this fall, which not by coincidence, is where Nick is scheduled to go in the fall of 2014.
Nick is following his older brother’s path to North Dakota, but can he follow in Jordan’s footsteps and earn his way into the first-round of the 2014? This year’s draft class boasts some solid talent in the form of American-born prospects, and Schmaltz is certainly one of the headliners at this point. Nick is currently viewed as one of the best—if not the best—USHL prospects entering the 2013-14 season. He is coming off a very successful rookie season during which he produced 18 goals and 34 assists for a total of 52 points, which ranked fourth-best on Green Bay. Nick struggled in the playoffs, however, contributing two points in four games, as the Gamblers were eliminated in round 1.
In watching Nick, it is easy to see where the excitement comes from. He is a quick, flashy forward, with good offensive tools that should make him a major point producer this season. He has good hands and is quick with the puck. His vision with the puck is excellent, and he finds his teammates well. He sees the ice well and creates scoring chances with good creativity and puck-movement, especially on the power-play where he ranked second on the Gamblers in scoring (7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points).
Nick doesn’t have the size that his brother has, and you can bet he'll be focused on adding some muscle to his frame this off-season to help combat that. His play away from the puck is a bit worrisome as well and will be closely monitored by NHL scouts this year to see how he's progressed in that department.
There is no doubt that the expectations are high for the 17-year-old center entering his draft year. He has plenty of USHL experience under his belt and enough skill to produce at a torrid pace this season. Green Bay is expected to lose two of its top-3 scorers from last season, which puts Nick in the spotlight and sets him up for a major role with the Gamblers. And hey, I'm sure the Schmaltz family isn't adverse to the prospect of having 2 first round picks in 3 years.
|1. C Sam Reinhart||Kootenay Ice|
|2. D Aaron Ekblad||Barrie Colts|
|3. C Michael Dal Colle||Oshawa Generals|
|4. C Leon Draisaitl||Prince Albert Raiders|
|5. C William Nylander||Rogle|
|6. LW Nick Ritchie||Peterborough Petes|
|7. D Haydn Fleury||Red Deer Rebels|
|8. D Roland McKeown||Kingston Frontenacs|
|9. LW Sam Bennett||Kingston Frontenacs|
|10. C Jared McCann||Soo Greyhounds|