Chicago Blackhawks: Nick Schmaltz making most of preseason

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

If the Chicago Blackhawks want to make a deep postseason run it must get contributions from their younger players. No one on the roster may have a bigger opportunity this season than second-year center Nick Schmaltz.

As the 20th overall selection in the 2014 draft, the Chicago Blackhawks are hoping that Schmaltz can become a big piece of the team’s future. Last season during his rookie year, the Wisconsin native showed flashes of potential, totaling 28 points in 61 games while playing on the Hawks lower lines.

Seizing the opportunity

Through three games this preseason, Schmaltz has stood out. In the team’s preseason-opening win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the University of North Dakota product tallied a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win. He followed that up with two assists in a 6-1 dismantling of the Detroit Red Wings Thursday.

Offseason moves make this his spot to lose

After Artemi Panarin was dealt to the Blue Jackets in the offseason, it opened a spot on the second line alongside Patrick Kane. With Kane likely to get most of the attention, Schmaltz has an opportunity to showcase his own speed and playmaking ability. So far Hawks coach Joel Quenneville likes what he sees from his young center and had this to say after the 5-2 win over Columbus. Via WGN’s Larry Hawley:

"“I think he has more speed to his game. It looks like he’s stronger in the puck area. He wants the puck has the puck more. his evasiveness laterally moving, can back people off, play recognition is high end as well. His shot looks like it’s got more pace to it too. Great start for him and another good game.”More from Da Windy City3 takeaways from Chicago Blackhawks shootout loss to NashvilleChicago Cubs in the middle of chaos that is Shohei Ohtani’s free agencyThe Chicago Cubs are on a roller coaster of emotions chasing Shohei OhtaniChicago Bears quietly compiling list of head coaching candidatesChicago White Sox News: Erick Fedde signs two-year deal"

Has to win more faceoffs

A big area of concern for not only Schmaltz but the Blackhawks overall is the ability to win faceoffs. During the 2016-17 regular season,  Per, Chicago ranked 29th out of 30th in faceoff percentage and Schmaltz won only 31 percent of his total faceoffs.

Showing the lack of trust the organization had in him in the faceoff dot, Schmaltz had only 0.6 faceoffs per game in the defensive zone. As a second line center, it will be critical these numbers improve. Per, Through three preseason games, he has won 48.5 percent of his total faceoffs.

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Consistency is key

No one is expecting Schmaltz to be Jonathan Toews or Kane offensively but he needs to take a step up his production this year. After all, Quenneville is known to have a short leash especially when it comes to younger players. But if Schmaltz continues to improve and can gel with Kane, he could be the biggest surprise for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.