Nick Schmaltz’s hockey dream came true the night of June 27th; that’s when the Chicago Blackhawks traded up to the 20th overall selection to take him at the NHL Entry Draft.
Fast-forward to Sunday, Day 1 of the Blackhawks’ prospect camp for Schmaltz and 60-plus other players. That’s the day when it all hit home for the Wisconsin native.
“It was kind of a dream for a couple of weeks. Now it’s a reality,” said Schmaltz, who participated in the Blackhawks’ first prospect scrimmage on Tuesday. “There’s still a long way to go and this is just another step.”
Indeed, Schmaltz is in the beginning stages of his career, which will start this fall at the University of North Dakota, which churned out hockey elite such as Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise and T.J. Oshie. Schmaltz hopes he can be the next future pro out of the UND program.
Schmaltz is off to a good start. A few months ago he wrapped up his third season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL; he scored 18 goals for the second consecutive season and added 45 assists. The Blackhawks first noticed him at a tournament in Slovakia last summer. General manager Stan Bowman said at the draft that the Blackhawks knew they wanted Schmaltz, so they traded up with San Jose to ensure they would.
For Schmaltz, this week is big. He’s taking in everything, from the sights of Chicago to the Blackhawks’ facilities to, of course, the on-ice work. The Blackhawks like all their forwards to have well-rounded games, so he’ll work on eventually having that.
“It’s just (about) getting better in all areas,” he said. “If you want to play at the next level and eventually professionally, you have to be good in all three zones, so I’m working on that.”
Schmaltz was totally living the dream when he was drafted. The forward knows he has plenty of work ahead to fulfill the next dream: becoming an NHL player. He’s ready for the reality of that.
“It’s getting to know the guys and the staff, keep working hard and have fun,” Schmaltz said of this week. “It’s just about getting better.”