Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Schmaltz anxious to show Blues right choice was made

Defenseman in town for workout orientation,
was team's first round selection last month

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As the 30 NHL clubs sift through hundreds and thousands of prospects in search of that next great player, just as the Blues do every season headed by Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong, there can be only one choice for each club.

In all, 30 names are called upon at the NHL Draft every year, and for the Blues, who picked 25th in Pittsburgh less than a month ago, it was offensive defenseman Jordan Schmaltz.

The 18-year-old Schmaltz, who played for the Sioux City Musketeers and Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League last season, was the Blues' choice on that Friday night of June 22nd. Some of the experts called it a risky pick. 
(Getty Images)
The Blues made Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Jordan Schmaltz
their top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft last month.

But Schmaltz, who will hone his skills at the University of North Dakota this fall, was in St. Louis for the first time this week getting acclimated with fellow Blues prospects in hopes of one day calling St. Louis home.

"I've been trying to work out at home leading up to this," said Schmaltz, who is heading to the Fighting Sioux campus on Wednesday after getting a training and workout regimen from Blues strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte. "It's been a crazy summer so I'm just trying to enjoy it all.

"It's set in and just getting here and seeing the guys who you might play with in the future and the competition, it's good to see. I couldn't wait for this week to get started."

Schmaltz, listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and a Verona, Wisconsin native, comes off of a 10-goal, 41-point season in 55 games that culminated with a USHL Clark Cup championship with the Gamblers, who acquired Schmaltz early in the 2011-12 season. He's been touted as a slick, puck-moving defenseman with a big upside in the offensive zone and a power play quarterback. But this is the first step in the big journey that Schmaltz hopes one day leads to the NHL.

"It's more about meeting the guys and getting comfortable with all the staff members and even some guys on the team here," Schmaltz said Monday at the Blues' practice facility at St. Louis Mills' Ice Zone. "It's just more about meeting the guys, getting on a weight program and meeting the strength coaches and everyone. It's really beneficial. I like it and it's going to be fun."

Not only is he getting a hands-on look at life in the NHL, but Schmaltz has talked to on a number of occasions about playing both sides of the ice from one of the best: Blues' Vice President of Hockey Operations Al MacInnis.

The knock on Schmaltz is he needs to improve his defensive skills, particularly positioning in the defensive zone. Who better to get advice from than MacInnis.

"I've kind of gotten to know him over the years," Schmaltz said of MacInnis. "I got to talk to him more in depth after the draft. He's a great guy. I can't wait to pick up little things from him and his advice."

For the second straight year, the Blues aren't having a formal orientation camp, per say, like many of their counterparts around the NHL. But to have the likes of Schmaltz come in for informal visits helps them ease into life with the big boys.

I think it's exciting for them to get an introduction to the organization," said Blues Director of Player Development Tim Taylor. "This is, for a lot of these guys, the first step to the NHL. Their eyes are getting wide open and have two players here who have had success in the NHL (David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo) and to see them working out and the work ethic they have, I think it's really good for these guys to see that.

"It's not talent alone, getting drafted is the first step. Getting into the organization, getting your feet wet and seeing what it's all about is the next step."

Like a lot of these younger guys that are here, it's all about fitness and strength for Schmaltz.
(Getty Images)
Jordan Schmaltz puts on a jersey after being selected 25th by the Blues at
the NHL Draft, with Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong looking on.

As he prepares for the trek to North Dakota, Schmaltz has received some helpful texts and tweets from a Fighting Sioux alum, one who knows the ins and outs of North Dakota and the Blues as well as anyone: T.J. Oshie.

"I grew up watching North Dakota, watching (Oshie), (Jonathan) Toews and all those guys," Schmaltz said. "Learning and seeing what those guys did there and how they got better and having successful NHL careers is pretty exciting.

"It's going to be really fun. ... I just can't wait; I can't wait to get started there. I haven't heard anything bad about it. It's going to be fun."

As for projecting when Schmaltz might be on the Blues' horizon, he's in no rush. In the meantime, playing at North Dakota will only better his skills and give Schmaltz the time necessary to help prove the Blues he was a worthy selection.

"I don't really know my timetable. I'm in no rush," Schmaltz said. "Once they might think I'm ready to play and I feel comfortable, maybe I can make that jump up. Right now, the first step is North Dakota and however long I'm there is just about getting better on and off the ice."

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