After missing out on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, the Blackhawks still ventured north of the border to acquire a center Friday.
North of the Illinois border, that is.
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Don't count on Nick Schmaltz providing any immediate help, however. Schmaltz became the newest member of the Blackhawks when the Western Conference finalists drafted him in the first round of the NHL draft, which is being held this weekend at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The 18-year-old center played for Green Bay of the United States Hockey League this past season, leading the Gamblers with 63 points and 45 assists in 55 regular-season games.
"I couldn't be happier," Schmaltz told reporters after being drafted. "I grew up a Blackhawks fan my whole life, and to hear my name called was a true honor."
Schmaltz, who added that he attended two Blackhawks playoff games this past season, will attend the University of North Dakota in the fall and told reporters Friday that he likely will play 2-3 years of college hockey. If the 6-foot, 167-pounder turns out to be as good as a certain couple of other UND centers the Blackhawks have drafted, they will be beyond thrilled. Jonathan Toews and Troy Murray both played for North Dakota.
The Blackhawks liked Schmaltz enough to move up seven spots to select him. Minutes before their selection, the Hawks announced a trade with San Jose, sending the Sharks the 27th and 62nd selections overall in exchange for the 20th and 179th picks.
"It shows they're confident in me," Schmaltz said. "I'm going to do my part and show them what I got."
Schmaltz was born in Madison, Wis., and grew up in Verona, which is just one mile southwest of Madison.
Schmaltz scored 18 goals, including 11 on the power play, for Green Bay last season. He also led the team with 63 penalty minutes and 140 shots on goal. He won a silver medal with the United States at the 2013 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, pacing the team with 8 points (5 goals) in five games. He also led the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, earning him tournament MVP honors with a tourney-high 12 points (4 goals) in four games.
During television coverage of the draft, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie called Schmaltz an "enigmatic, talented player" with "top 10 talent" who could have been drafted anywhere from "No. 10 to No. 60." Analyst Craig Button added Schmaltz's game is comparable to that of Ottawa's Jason Spezza.
Schmaltz called himself a "play-making center."
While the Blackhawks wait for Schmaltz to develop, they will look elsewhere for a potential No. 2 center. They had to cross off Kesler's name as a potential veteran to add to their mix heading into next season. Earlier Friday, Anaheim acquired the 6-2 Kesler, a former Selke Trophy winner and six-time 20-goal scorer, from Vancouver in a multiplayer trade.
The draft concludes today with Rounds 2-7, starting at 9 a.m. The Blackhawks do not have a second-round pick, after trading it to Phoenix in March for David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois.
• The Blackhawks were busy before the draft Friday tying up some of their own players.
The team announced it had agreed to two-year contract extensions with forward Jeremy Morin, forward Ben Smith and backup goaltender Antti Raanta.
Morin, 23, tallied 11 points (5 goals) in 24 regular-season games last year with the Blackhawks and appeared in two Stanley Cup playoff games. He also recorded 47 points (24 goals) in 47 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.
Smith, who turns 26 in July, recorded career highs in nearly every statistical category last season, posting 26 points (14 goals) in 75 regular-season games. He scored 6 goals in the final 15 games of the regular season and then added 4 goals and 2 assists in 19 Stanley Cup playoff contests.
Raanta, 25, posted a 13-5-4 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 25 appearances in his rookie season.