Nick Schmaltz following in brother's footsteps
|Chase Agnello-Dean / Chicago Blackhawks|
Nick Schmaltz knows the perfect role model from which to build his hockey resume.
That would be his brother Jordan, who happened to be a 2012 first-round pick (No. 25) of the St. Louis Blues.
"I look up to him and am happy for what he has accomplished so far with his career," Schmaltz said of his older brother. "It's pretty unique to have a brother be such a good player so I take advantage of that and learn from his experiences. I hope I can achieve some of the goals that he has already."
It isn't by accident that Nick basically has followed the same path as Jordan, playing for the under-16 Chicago Mission and now with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. He's also committed to the University of North Dakota, where Jordan is now starring as a sophomore defenseman.
"Nick is a player with a very high hockey IQ and I think his vision and creativity with the puck are his best attributes," Jordan Schmaltz said of his younger brother. "In my mind he plays like [Buffalo Sabres forward] Thomas Vanek with the way he can slow down the game.
"It's pretty cool to see us take the same path. We've always done the same things growing up and are really close. So it's only fitting we'll get a chance to play together at North Dakota at some point."
As one of only three "A"-rated prospects on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list of players to watch from the USHL for the 2014 NHL Draft, Nick also is hoping to be an early pick at this season's draft, to be held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia in June.
"It would be an honor to go in the first round, but I just need to try to take care of myself and my game and hopefully it works out in the end," Nick Schmaltz told NHL.com. "My brother hasn't said much with regard to my draft year. He just told me to take care of my game and play my heart out. The rest should take care of itself."
The younger Schmaltz certainly is making the most of his draft season so far. In addition to leading all scorers with nine points (five goals, four assists) for the United States in a second-place showing at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in August, he has four goals and 10 points (five power-play points) in nine games for the Gamblers.
"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."
Schmaltz became the youngest member of the USHL All-Rookie Team in 2012-13 after he had 18 goals and 52 points in 64 games for the Gamblers.
"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. "I certainly understand all of the talk of him entering this season as one of the top players to watch. 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."
Schmaltz scored game-winning goals in three consecutive games for Green Bay and led the team with five game-winners in 2012-13. One of them came Dec. 31, 2012, when he scored in overtime to beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks and complete his first USHL hat trick.
"I'm satisfied with the season so far," Schmaltz said. "Our team is coming together and starting to play to our strengths, which are our speed and skill. I have a lot of talent to play with, which makes it easier to produce and be the type of player I want to be."
Lalonde, who coached Jordan Schmaltz for 46 games in 2011-12 following his trade from the Sioux City Musketeers, acknowledged the only difference between the brothers is the fact Nick plays forward and Jordan is a defenseman.
"They are two very special hockey players, and knowing that Jordan was chosen in the first round and Nick might also be picked in the first round is pretty incredible," Lalonde said. "They both have good hockey sense. I feel that Nick has more God-given genetics, he's a little taller and his shoulders are broader.
"Both of them lead by example. Nick has that knack of elevating his game when it's on the line. He's able to elevate at the most opportune time and that's a special ability."
In preparation for the season, Nick Schmaltz said he and his brother underwent a pretty strenuous training regimen over the summer, doing lower-body workout routines four days a week and upper-body routines two days a week.
"Green Bay has been a great fit for me," Nick Schmaltz said. "The coaching staff is unbelievable; they allow you to play your game. If you're a goal scorer they'll let you make plays. The USHL is a great league to learn and become a better pro."
Schmaltz idolizes Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk, but acknowledged his need to improve defensively.
"Datsyuk is a great two-way player and I like to model my game after his, but I need to work on my defensive game a little more," he said. "One day I hope to be near as good as that guy. I don't know if I'll ever be able to match his moves; he's pretty crazy."