Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Schmaltz, time is right to go pro

Blues' No. 1 pick in 2012 spent past three seasons at North Dakota, 
including last one with younger brother Nick; signed three-year entry-level contract

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jordan Schmaltz was entering his third season at the University of North Dakota with the same expectations as the previous two: continue to improve, keep UND among the favorites to win a collegiate championship and most importantly, continue climbing the depth chart among defensive prospects in the Blues organization.

But this wasn't just any season in college for Schmaltz. No way. The 2014-15 season was an opportunity for the Blues' first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft to play with his little brother, 19-year-old Nick Schmaltz, who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round in 2014. Nick was playing in his first season at UND.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Schmaltz stick-handles the the puck at the Blues' recent prospect
camp at the team's practice facility, the Ice Zone.

"It was pretty cool," said the elder Schmaltz, who is 21. "We hadn't really played together besides kind of a brief stint in Green Bay for like 10 games. But it was awesome. It was everything that I thought it would be. It was kind of cool having him there."

The Schmaltz brothers got one final opportunity to play together after spending the 2011-12 season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. They would be reunited under coach Dave Hakstol, who has since taken the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Flyers. 

But Jordan, who had 28 points (24 assists) in 42 games with UND, knew it would be a short-lived experience with his brother. Jordan Schmaltz signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Blues once his collegiate season ended. It was time to turn pro.

Schmaltz, who is 6-foot-2 and 189 pounds, ranked third on the club with his 28 points and his 24 assists led the team in helping UND to a second consecutive Frozen Four appearance. Other than being an NCAA champion, Jordan Schmaltz helped UND keep it's tradition-rich hockey program alive and well.

"Being at the college level, I definitely grew from my freshman year to my junior year," Schmaltz said. "Working with the staff there, they definitely helped me improve on the defensive side and in the weight room, too.  I've put on almost 20 pounds now. I'm ready for the next step and couldn't be more excited."

As Schmaltz said, he is taking the next step and it's time for him to do just that. He was in attendance at Blues prospects camp recently for the fourth straight year. Some would question why a first round pick, or anyone for that matter, would need to attend a prospects camp so many times.

For Schmaltz, the first two didn't include on-ice activities; just weight training and off-ice things.

But for Schmaltz, there was the chance to return for a fourth and final season at North Dakota, but the Blues feel that it's time for one of their first round picks to make the advancement and move on up the ladder.

"His next step is to understand what a pro's all about," said Tim Taylor, the Blues' director of amateur scouting, talking about Schmaltz. "He's coming out of college and he spent three years there, three good years. He's played some big games for North Dakota, but this will be a step up and now this is a man's game. Battles are won and lost all over the ice and ice time is lost and gained over won and lost battles. That's one thing he's going to have to understand and understand that the pro game is a lot different and hopefully with his maturity and his age now, he can understand that. Playing in some key games over those last three years at North Dakota should help him."

Schmaltz didn't leave because of the coaching change at UND. 

"No, not at all," he said. "Dave and Brad Berry now being as coach, they're both unbelievable coaches and unbelievable guys. ... It's tough leaving, but it was time to make the next step in my career and turn pro."

Schmaltz, who had 13 goals and 64 points in 125 games at UND, has to take that next leap forward in order to prolong his advancement.

"I think just getting introduced and acclimated with the pro game," Schmaltz said of the biggest differences he may encounter. "There's a lot more games; there's 80 instead of 40 now. I think I just have to come to camp and compete and see where that takes me."

Schmaltz will arrive again in September and participate in Blues training camp. His next likely destination is with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. And although it's understandable if there are some challenging learning curves at the pro level, Schmaltz will let his brother continue the family name at UND while he continues the process of making the Schmaltz name a household name at the professional level.
(Getty Images)
Jordan Schmaltz (24) helped North Dakota to back-to-back NCAA Frozen
Four appearances. 

And in the Blues' case, it all means continue that excellence of growing blueliners that thrive at the NHL level.

"This is the real deal now. I'm looking forward to it," Schmaltz said. "... I don't really have any pressure on me. I've just got to play my game and see where I fall.

"Some guys are ready within a year and some guys are ready within four years. It all depends on a guy's learning curve."

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