Sunday, July 13, 2014

Schmaltz knocking on Blues' defensive door

2012 first round pick to play at North Dakota in fall with 
brother Nick, expected to make jump up ladder in minor leagues

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft, brothers Jordan and Nick Schmaltz talked about the idea of playing in the NHL together.

Jordan Schmaltz was a 2012 first-round pick of the Blues; Nick was the anxious little brother awaiting his turn. 

The Blues were looking like most other teams were at this particular draft, searching for forwards. The younger Schmaltz is a center/right wing who played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. He would have been a perfect fit for what the Blues were looking for and Nick Schmaltz would have been reunited with his brother.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, the Blues' 2012 first round pick, will play a
third season this fall in college at North Dakota.

There will be a reunion, but not at the NHL level. In fact, Jordan and Nick Schmaltz one day will be adversaries in one of the reborn and growing rivalries in the game.

"I think they were thinking or were going to take him until Chicago traded up," Jordan Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks selecting his brother in the first round. "It is what it is and I was pretty happy for him.

"It kind of sucks he didn't get to come here, but Chicago's not a bad organization either. That was awesome. I was so proud of him."

The Blackhawks traded up with the San Jose Sharks, right in front of the Blues, who had the 21st pick, and selected Schmaltz and spoiling what could have been the reunion the brothers had talked about.

They will get to play together this upcoming season at the University of North Dakota, but Nick better savor the memories while he can, because his older brother in all likelihood will be moving on up the ranks.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jordan Schmaltz spent the past week with other Blues' prospects at camp, and using the cliche term men among boys, sometimes it seemed that way with the 20-year-old defenseman.

"You saw him in the 3-on-3 drills, he takes charge," said Blues director of player personnel Tim Taylor, one of the coaches who ran the prospects 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."

Jordan Schmaltz, who began his ice 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 the Fighting Sioux in 2012 before doubling his goals (six), assists (18) and points (24) in 41 games this past season.

"I feel like I definitely went a step or two in the right direction this year," Schmaltz 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. Dillon Simpson this year was my [defensive] partner and I think we just complemented each other really well. It helped my game that much more being able to play with a player like Dillon. He's something special. ... With another year here at North Dakota, I have high expectations to continue to move forward and round out my game."

And perhaps helping his North Dakota teammates grab some vindication after the Sioux lost a heart-breaker to the University of Minnesota 2-1 on a buzzer-beater at last season's Frozen Four.

Schmaltz assisted on the game-tying goal midway through the third period and 32 seconds after the Gophers grabbed a 1-0 lead but it wasn't long before stunning developments would soon set in.

"That was tough," Schmaltz said. "We were in shock, disbelief at what happened. I blocked a shot and next thing I know, it's in our net. 

"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. I think right now, for me, it's just continue to worry about my game and things I can control."

Schmaltz's climb up the defensive ranks on the Blues' depth chart is no coincidence. His offensive instincts could one day serve well in coach Ken Hitchcock's system, especially if Schmaltz 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 of Schmaltz. "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."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
2012 first round pick Jordan Schmaltz hit the weights this past week at the
Blues' prospects camp.

When Schmaltz first came to St. Louis two years ago, everything was new to him. Now there is a focus and goal in mind, a clear-cut goal.

"Coming in as a young guy, you're kind of scrawny or whatever," Schmaltz 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."

And in the meantime, Schmaltz can take his little brother Nick under his wing for a year before the realization sets in that he one day may have to stop him.

"Maybe one day down the road that would be cool," Jordan Schmaltz said, "but right now, we're on the same team at North Dakota."

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