Outlook: My oh my has Nick Schmaltz continued to develop. After a trying rookie campaign that saw him sent down to Rockford, the 22-year-old center has returned a completely different player. He’s confident, he’s revealed more of a playmaking ability and his on-ice chemistry with Patrick Kane is impossible to ignore. The transformation of Schmaltz is incredible, and it shows that the Blackhawks were smart to trade up in the 2014 draft to grab him. His skills are undeniable, as he is set to replace Jonathan Toews as the eventual number one center on the Chicago Blackhawks.
Still only 22, Schmaltz’s ceiling is still incredibly high. He’s slowly learning to shoot the puck more, as opposed to trying to get Patrick Kane the puck, which has been evident due to his uptick in scoring. Schmaltz tied with Toews and rookie sensation Alex DeBrincat in scoring this season for the Blackhawks, positing 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 total points. During his rookie season, Schmaltz only posted 28 points in 61 games. Therefore, for the 2018-19 season, it’s not out of the question to believe that he can score anywhere from 55-65 points. It’s cliche to say, but the sky is the limit for Schmaltz and the Blackhawks need to start building around him and DeBrincat.
The positives: Schmaltz was legitimately one of the few bright spots for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. The chemistry that he showed with Kane was reminiscent of the Artemi Panarin and Kane connection, but Schmaltz also showed that he can produce with some of the younger players as well. While Schmaltz will not be the insane scorer that Panarin is, he’s also shown an incredible playmaking ability, as well as speed to burn. Kane even compared his speed to Connor McDavid early in the season. Again, Schmaltz is only 22 and his progression is even more important than ever before, considering that he is part of the future of the Blackhawks.
Causes for Concern: While it’s impossible to ignore the heights the Schmaltz has reached, this season, as well as his rookie season, showed something that could present a problem for the 22-year old center. Schmaltz appears to regularly have some sort of lingering issue that knocks him out for a couple games. While they haven’t been long stints, it might not be that long before he has a serious injury that prevents him from playing for weeks at a time.
Schmaltz also isn’t the greatest at winning face-offs, something that every other Blackhawk besides Toews has struggled with. He has already said that he’s going to focus on improving in that area, and the Hawks need him to do so desperately. Apart from those two issues, there really isn’t much to hate about Schmaltz’s game.
Final Thoughts: Nick Schmaltz really doesn’t have to worry about much. He’s young and has already established that he’s the type of player Chicago needs (and will) build around. Centering a player like Patrick Kane doesn’t hurt in the slightest, but he’s proved that he will help Kane reach higher point totals. Schmaltz is going to continue to grow as a player, and will undoubtedly become the number one center for the Chicago Blackhawks in the future. As long as he works on his face-offs, and can stay away from a significant injury, the Blackhawks might have found the centerpiece of their second “core.”