This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…
When the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues on April 25, Andrew Ladd, Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, and Dale Weise were all in the lineup.
Today, all four of those forwards are with other clubs, and that means opportunity is knocking for a number of Chicago prospects, including 2014 first-round draft pick Nick Schmaltz.
Schmaltz, 20, turned pro in June after helping the University of North Dakota win a national championship. He had 46 points (11G, 35A) in 37 games in 2015-16, the third most points on the team behind Vancouver first-rounder Brock Boeser and Edmonton signee Drake Caggiula.
“I think Nick’s got some dynamic skills, similar to Teuvo in a lot of ways,” said ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman, per The Athletic.
And Schmaltz definitely sees the opportunity.
“They have salary-cap issues so they need younger guys to play,” he told NHL.com. “I think it’s a great time [to turn pro], and I think a lot of young guys are going to be in the NHL this year. Hopefully I can work for a job.”
So, what are his chances?
Well, looking back to when Schmaltz was drafted 20th overall two years ago, there was nobody who questioned his talent, but some who wondered about his consistency.
“Top 10 in talent, if you talk to the scouts,” said TSN’s Bob McKenzie during the broadcast, “but the range we had for him is he could go anywhere from No. 10 to No. 60, because he’s a real in-and-outer. … Sometimes you show up and watch this kid play and he’s the most dominant offensive player on the ice, other nights you go and he doesn’t do anything at all.”
Schmaltz has since spent two years developing in college, his production jumping from 26 points as a freshman to, as mentioned, 46 points last season. But it’s feasible that it may now take some time to find that consistency at the pro level.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other youngsters in the ‘Hawks organization with their eyes on a roster spot next season, including Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero, and Mark McNeill, all of whom have at least played at the AHL level. It’s possible Jimmy Vesey could be there, too.
The one thing we know for sure is it’s going to be a very interesting training camp.
“The opportunities are there for these guys to step forward and show us which guys can [play],” Bowman told NHL.com. “I think it’s dangerous to try and label guys to fill [certain roles]. It’s probably unfair to them. One thing I told all those guys was, ‘I’m not sure which of you guys is going to make the team, but don’t make the decision easy for us.'”