Schmaltz Asserts Himself with Blues
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft, brothers Jordan Schmaltz and Nick Schmaltz visualized a scenario of playing in the NHL together.
Jordan was a 2012 first-round pick (No. 25) of the St. Louis Blues; Nick was the anxious little brother awaiting his turn as the 2014 draft took place at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia in June.
The Blues were searching for forwards, so the younger Schmaltz, a center/right wing who most recently played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, would have been a perfect fit alongside his brother.
There will be an NHL reunion one day, but it will likely involve Jordan and Nick competing as adversaries in one of the best rivalries in the game.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded up in the first round to the 20th pick, one spot before the Blues. Chicago picked Nick and spoiled what could have been the reunion the brothers had talked about.
"I think they [the Blues] were thinking or were going to take him until Chicago traded up," Jordan said. "It is what it is and I was pretty happy for him.
"It kind of [stinks] he didn't get to come here, but Chicago's not a bad organization either. That was awesome. I was so proud of him."
They will get to play together this season at the University of North Dakota, but Nick should savor the memories while he can, because his older brother in all likelihood will be moving up in the ranks soon.
Jordan (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) spent the second week of July with other Blues prospects at development camp, where the 20-year-old defenseman appeared to make his mark.
"You saw him in the 3-on-3 drills, he takes charge," said Blues director of player personnel Tim Taylor, one of the on-ice organizers of the camp. "As you watched the game, there's one guy that really took charge of the yellow group over the blue group and that was him. He handled the puck every time he was on the ice, he's got good speed, good acceleration, he sees the ice very well. The next progression for him is to get bigger and stronger to get to the next level."
The elder Schmaltz, 20, who began his hockey career with the Chicago Mission in 2008 before moving on to the Sioux City Musketeers and Gamblers of the USHL, had three goals and 12 points in 42 games for North Dakota in 2012 before doubling his goals (six), assists (18) and points (24) in 41 games last season.
"I feel like I definitely went a step or two in the right direction this year," Jordan said. "I thought I had a really good year this year and I'm just really looking forward to building off that this coming year at North Dakota.
"Every year, I've grown a little bit. I played with some really good players this year. [Edmonton Oilers prospect] Dillon Simpson this year was my [defensive] partner and I think we just complemented each other really well. With another year here at North Dakota, I have high expectations to continue to move forward and round out my game."
And perhaps help his North Dakota teammates grab some vindication after they lost a heartbreaker to the University of Minnesota, 2-1, on a buzzer-beater at last season's Frozen Four. Jordan assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period, 32 seconds after the Gophers grabbed a 1-0 lead, but it wasn't long before the stunning last-second developments took place. With 0.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Minnesota's Justin Holl scored a shorthanded goal to eliminate North Dakota.
"That was tough. We were in shock, disbelief at what happened. I blocked a shot and next thing I know, it's in our net," Jordan said. "We had a great year. The coaches there are great and they've helped me so much. I trust them, and it's going to be really good moving forward."
His climb up the defensive ranks on the Blues depth chart is no coincidence. His offensive instincts could one day perform in coach Ken Hitchcock's system, especially if he continues to improve his puck-moving skills.
"He had a different personality on the ice. He was very reserved the first year I watched him," Taylor said. "Now over the last year, he's developed that 'It's my team' attitude, and he's taken that attitude and he's really progressed with it. The more you see that attitude, the more he handles the puck. We have big expectations for a big third year for him."
When Jordan came to St. Louis two years ago, everything was new to him. Now there is a focus and a clear-cut goal in mind.
"Coming in as a young guy, you're kind of scrawny or whatever," he said. "The main focus is putting on weight so you can play at the next level. I think that's still a work in progress with me. You can never be too big in my opinion. You can be, but a guy like me is not going to blow up. Just keep getting stronger and work hard. You know it's going to come.
"Every year we come here, it's good to learn new things and be able to take new things back, especially skating this year. Hopefully we picked up on a few drills or whatever it may be. Come in here with open ears and take everything in."
In the meantime, Jordan can take his little brother Nick under his wing for a year before the realization sets in that one day he may have to stop him.
"Maybe one day down the road that would be cool," Jordan said, "but right now, we're on the same team at North Dakota."