The New Jersey Devils need to replenish their forward prospect pool and it just so happens that the best player available may end up being a forward at #30. One prospect that is consistently ranked towards the end of the 1st round is American center Nick Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Perhaps one of the most offensively gifted players in the entire draft, Schmaltz has some issues in his game that could cause him to still be available when the Devils are ready to make their first pick. Schmaltz is committed to the University of North Dakota and will have a few seasons to mature physically and develop his game on the ice. He is the type of prospect that offers high end upside if he can put it all together which is something that should certainly grab the interest of numerous teams, including the Devils.
Who is Nick Schmaltz?
Nick Schmaltz is the younger brother of 20-year-old, St. Louis Blues 2012 1st round selection, Jordan Schmaltz. Nick Schmaltz is listed by Elite Prospects at 6'0" and 174 pounds and his USHL profile has him at 6'0" and 172 pounds. He is committed to join his brother at the University of North Dakota next season though the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) hold his CHL rights. Here are his stats below courtesy of Elite Prospects:
Nick Schmaltz is from Wisconsin but jump-started his career by playing bantam hockey for the Chicago Mission from 2009-2011 where he put up 43 goals and 66 assists in 58 games (1.88 Pts/GP) as the team's top player. He split the 2011-12 season between midget hockey for the Chicago Mission U16 team and junior hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL), putting up solid numbers against older competition.
Schmaltz broke out in his rookie USHL season in 2012-13 with 18 goals and 34 assists in 64 games to earn USHL All-Rookie Team honors and finish 4th on Green Bay in points. He followed this up with an impressive 2013-14 campaign that saw his 18 goals and 45 assists in 55 games earn him USHL All-Star honors as he led Green Bay in assists and points. Schmaltz has an impressive 0.92 Pts/GP rate in 130 career USHL games.
Schmaltz also collected valuable international experience this past season. He represented the USA U18 squad at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, competing against many other highly regarded prospects. He led the USA squad in goals (5), assists (3), and points (8) in 5 games. He would end up finishing tied for 2nd in points amongst all participants while leading the tournament in goals. Schmaltz also competed for the USA U19 squad in the World Junior A Challenge this past season, earning a gold medal. Once again he was the standout player for the Americans, leading the team in goals (4), assists (8), and points (12) in 4 games. He also led the tournament in goals, assists, and points.
Using his USHL profile page we can further break down his scoring:
|Age (as of 2/1)
At a quick glance it is evident that Schmaltz is equally effective both at even strength and on the power play. I'm also encouraged to see that his SH/GP rate has climbed every single year he's played in the USHL. Being able to not only put pucks on net but in the back of the net is a great sign. Obviously, judging by his assists totals, he likes to dish the puck out to his teammates, so he seems like a solid play driver even when he isn't the one shooting pucks at the net.
What Others Have Said About Schmaltz
Future Considerations has this to say on Schmaltz:
Schmaltz possesses good vision, shows good quickness and a strong ability to read the play in the offensive end. While he can also play in his own zone, Schmaltz's quick hands and ability to move in tight make him an attractive package.
This is certainly a ringing endorsement and enough to get me excited about him. The Devils don't boast the most skilled group of forward prospects and Schmaltz would be a welcome addition. The ability to read the play, coupled with natural talent makes Schmaltz an intriguing prospect to consider on draft day. It is also nice to read that he is capable in his own end, which would fit in nicely with what the Devils expect out of their players.
Chris Dilks for SB Nation's College Hockey Blog profiled Schmaltz earlier this month. In the profile he wrote:
Schmaltz's best asset are his tremendous stickhandling and playmaking ability. His soft hands give him the ability to make plays in high-traffic areas, and a threat to score any time he touches the puck. He's one of the more dynamic offensive threats available in the draft.
The rest of Schmaltz's game isn't as well-rounded as it is on the offensive end of the ice. He'll need to become more consistent on the defensive end of the ice. He also needs to add a lot more strength in his upper body to compete against better competition.
I'm encouraged about Schmaltz's ability to play in tight, high-traffic areas as this will help translate his offensive game as he moves up into professional hockey in a few years. The fact that one of the dynamic offensive threats in the draft could be available for the Devils first pick is something to be excited about. He will have plenty of time to develop his defensive game and bulk up his body over the next few seasons at North Dakota.
Over at TSN, Bob McKenzie ranked Schmaltz 13th in his pre-season list with TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button adding this:
Nick has elite skill. His skating is excellent and it appears as if he's gliding past opponents. Exceptional agility and he's capable of beating opponents quickly in tight areas. Excellent puck skills and he can make plays that create outstanding offensive opportunities. Good shot and combined with his playmaking, keeps defenders off balance. Very smart and poised and can hold puck to allow plays to develop. Top line type.
Schmaltz fell to 25th in McKenzie's mid-season rankings with Button saying:
Nick has excellent hockey sense and an ease to his game that very few possess. He has excellent puck skills and can make plays that create scoring opportunities. He knows where to be on the ice to make a difference.
McKenzie's final rankings list Schmaltz as the 26th best prospect in the draft class. While it's not ideal that he "fell" in the rankings, he remained a 1st round pick all year in the eyes of TSN and McKenzie. Button's description of his game further backs up the notion that Schmaltz is great in the offensive zone, especially in tight areas, and he possesses a lot of skill. Button seems to believe that Schmaltz has the skill level to develop into a top line player which is high praise coming from the former Director of Scouting for the Dallas Stars and General Manager of the Calgary Flames.
Mike G. Morreale at NHL.com highlighted Schmaltz back in October. The article has a few interesting quotes from a scout for NHL Central Scouting and Schmaltz's coach.
"He's a dynamic offensive player," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "He's really good at making you think the puck will be taken away from him, but he has such quick hands and can skate with it at full speed and then pull it away from you at full speed."
"He's got special hands, skill and vision and that makes him one of the top offensive players," Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde told NHL.com. "He had a great showing at the Ivan Hlinka, and what separates him from the rest is his ability to create offense and those quick hands in tight areas. He makes his linemates better and he relishes those moments playing in tight games."
Once again "dynamic" is used to describe Schmaltz's game. He clearly impressed many people from across the hockey world in his draft year. Not everyone was thrilled with him though...
Back in April, Kyle Woodlief for Red Line Report and USA Today listed Schmaltz as a falling prospect with this not so endearing blurb:
For all his wonderful skills, we just can't abide his soft, lazy game and entitled attitude.
Make of this what you will. Could Woodlief have caught Schmaltz when he was having a bad game or when his play was affected by a minor, nagging injury perhaps? Or is Schmaltz a player that tries to get by on his high skill level? I personally tend to focus on what I can see on the stat sheet but it's never a good thing to read this kind of comment about a prospect.
Amongst the various public rankings, Schmaltz is ranked 19th by Central Scouting for North American skaters, 24th overall by ISS Hockey, 28th overall by Hockey Prospect, and 24th overall by Craig Button of TSN.
A Little Video
The first video features his highlights from Team USA action this past season as well as a few highlights of his USHL play. (Note: Schmaltz is #9) In it you can see his quick hands on display as well as his hockey sense to put himself into scoring positions in the offensive zone. You see his creative mindset and ability to either score or dish the puck off to a teammate or get the puck on net for a rebound or tip in opportunity.
This local news feature gives a glimpse into Schmaltz's past and what type of player he is with interviews from Schmaltz, his teammate, Connor Hurley, and coach, Derek Lalonde, for Green Bay in the USHL. It focuses on all the positives of his game but still gives a nice insight into what type of player he is.
An Opinion of Sorts
Schmaltz is the type of forward prospect that I hope the Devils target at the draft. Scouts and publications all seem to agree that he has special offensive skills that should translate as he moves into the NCAA and eventually NHL. Words like "dynamic" and "elite" have been used to describe his offensive talent and it would be a much needed boost to a team like the Devils that are lacking high end forwards in their prospect pool. Schmaltz can skate, make plays, control the puck, and fire off an accurate shot when need be. He's gone from being one of the best USHL players to excelling on the international stage twice in his draft year.
Some may feel he is an enigma but that doesn't concern me a whole lot. Players that have been on the draft radar all year as a potential 1st rounder tend to be more scrutinized than others. Sometimes players are tired or battling injuries that are hidden and it can appear they are giving a lack of effort. While we don't know the exact case in some scouts viewings for Schmaltz, I'm pretty confident in what he has produced in his USHL career to not worry about it. The bottom line is he has a lot of skill.
Schmaltz may need to bulk up and develop consistency in his defensive game but he will have plenty of time to do that playing college hockey for North Dakota. Playing mainly on weekends will allow him plenty of time to hit the gym and practices to further refine all aspects his game. While there is the risk he doesn't put it all together, his offensive skills alone may allow him to carve out a career in the NHL. To get a prospect with his upside at #30 could end up being a steal for the Devils.
Now that you've read this profile, what is your opinion of Nick Schmaltz as a prospect? Would you be willing to take him at #30 if you were the Devils? Does his reported lack of intensity at times make you want to pass on him? Do you think he will be selected in the 1st round or fall into the 2nd round? Please leave your answers and thoughts in the comments. Thank you for reading.