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MEN'S HOCKEY: Soon-to-be UND freshman looks to go in first round of NHL draft

Nick Schmaltz

Nick Schmaltz knows how this works.

Two years ago, he was sitting in the stands in Pittsburgh, waiting and wondering whether his brother, Jordan, would get selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.

“It was kind of long,” Nick said. “Kind of nerve-racking at times. You’re just hoping to get picked in the first round. It turned out well and it was a fun night.”

Jordan did, indeed, go in the first round, the only round that is held on opening night. The St. Louis Blues selected him No. 24 overall.

Tonight, it’s Nick’s turn.

The soon-to-be UND freshman forward will be in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center hoping that, like his brother, he will go in the first round of the draft. If so, the Schmaltz family will join an exclusive club that features the Hossas, Koivus and Sedins, among others, as first-round pick brothers.

Late first, early second

As was the case with Jordan, it’s not a sure thing that Nick will get selected tonight (6 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Draft projections peg him as either a late first-round pick or an early second-round pick.

TSN (No. 26), International Scouting Services (24) and McKeen’s (30) have him going in the first. The Hockey News (No. 31) says he’ll go in the second.

“He’s a very skilled player,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s very gifted in terms of his ability with the puck and his ability to make players around him better. He has a history of being a big-game player, being a guy that plays well in bigger situations. Those are big positives.”

The knock on Schmaltz is his consistency. The Hockey News says that, at times, it’s not there. But UND thinks that will come.

“His high end is extremely high,” Hakstol said. “For a young player to consistently reach that bar is difficult. That’s one thing we’ll concentrate on here — working to play on a high level day in and day out. That’s going to be part of his growth and development.”

Early impressions

Schmaltz had scouts buzzing after his performance in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament last summer. He led the tournament in goals and finished second in points. He followed that up with a strong season with the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League, tallying 63 points in 55 games and cementing himself as a top prospect for the draft.

Scouts followed his every step along the way.

“There are guys there every night,” said Schmaltz, who interviewed with 27 of the 30 NHL teams at the Combine last month in Toronto. “You’re not going to be on the top of your game every night, but you just have to compete every night and work hard regardless of how the night is going. It has been a pretty great experience. Most people don’t get to go through that. It’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

Schmaltz also said he will relish the opportunity to play with his brother next season at UND. Previously, they’ve only briefly played together.

“I won’t take it for granted,” said Nick, who has already been to Grand Forks this summer. “I can’t wait. It’s going to be pretty fun.”

Jordan did give Nick some words of wisdom before starting his college career.

“If you can play, they’re going to play you,” Jordan told Nick. “You’ve got to work hard on and off the ice and be a good kid. You’re on your own. You have to grow up, take care of school work and make smart decisions off the ice. That’s going to translate on the ice.”

But in the meantime, Nick knows how to handle this weekend. He’s seen it unfold before.

“Just stay calm,” he said. “Obviously, everyone wants to go in the first round. At the end of the day, it’s not a make-or-break deal. Some guys don’t even get drafted and play in the NHL. It’s a pretty cool experience wherever you go.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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