Player: Nick Schmaltz
Drafted By: Chicago Blackhawks (20th overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 24 North American skater
Height/Weight: 5'11'', 172 lbs
DOB: February 23, 1996 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: USHL, Green Bay Gamblers
Nick Schmaltz is a very talented offensive hockey player. The native of Verona, Wisconsin, was one of the top scorers in the USHL last season and is headed to the University of North Dakota this fall. He comes from a hockey family as his older brother Jordan already plays at North Dakota and was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2012 NHL draft.
During the regular season, Schmaltz scored 18 goals and 63 points in 55 games for Green Bay. That was an 11-point increase over the previous season. The Gamblers did not qualify for the playoffs last season.
As players who can produce offense are not easy to come by, Schmaltz should be in demand toward the end of the first round or beginning of the second round of this year's draft.
Full Scouting Report
Schmaltz has hands and vision that set him apart from other players his age. He sees the ice very well and is able to maintain possession of the puck even when he does not have a lot of room to operate within.
Scouts have few doubts about Schmaltz's ability to contribute offensively.
David Gregory of Central Scouting (h/t NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale) had this to say about Schmaltz before the draft:
"He's a dynamic offensive player. 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."
Nick's brother, Jordan, told Morreale, "Nick is a player with a very high hockey IQ, and I think his vision and creativity with the puck are his best attributes."
The biggest issue many experts have with Schmaltz's game right now is his size and defensive play. Like most 18-year-old players, he needs to add some muscle to his frame to be consistently successful in the NHL. Most scouts think that Schmaltz has the skill set to be responsible in his own zone, but he has yet to consistently demonstrate the will to do so.
He has come up big in high-profile games before.
NHL Player Comparison
The best comparison for Schmaltz is Thomas Vanek, who finished last season with the Montreal Canadiens. Like Vanek, Schmaltz sees the ice well, can score goals and has the ability to slow the game down and create scoring chances. He is also masterful with the puck in one-on-one situations.
It will be at least two years before Schmaltz reaches the NHL, probably three. He is committed to North Dakota, which has an excellent hockey program. In addition, he needs to add size before he will be able to keep up with the physicality of the NHL. Don't expect Schmaltz to reach the NHL until at least 2016-17, possibly a year after that.
At his top potential, Schmaltz becomes the next Vanek, a player who can score 25 to 30 goals and average a point per game when in his prime. He will thrive on the power play when he has a little more time and space to work his magic with the puck.
Expect Schmaltz to be a top-six forward who can appear in a few All-Star Games and make some jaw-dropping plays to excite fans.