Jordan Schmaltz

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A look back…

In what could be one of the strongest draft years for defensemen in recent memory, every prospect is hoping to stand out.
Jordan Schmaltz, 18, of the Green Bay Gamblers knows that his meal ticket is as a premier offensive defenseman.

“I’m more of a puck-mover,” Schmaltz says.  “I make a good first pass out of the zone and I jump up into the play.  I just try to make reads and distribute the puck.  I describe myself as more of a quarterback than a guy with a heavy shot.  That’s not saying I don’t think I have a good shot, I think I have a pretty good shot, but I’m more of a guy that likes to distribute the puck.”

The 6-foot-2, 188-pound Schmaltz led all USHL blueliners in scoring as a rookie last season with 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in 53 games.  He’s off to another strong start this year with five goals and six assists in 19 games.

“Jordan’s biggest attribute is his transition play,” Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde says.  “His poise, his ability to move the puck and manage and control the game from a transition standpoint.  His offensive instincts are unbelievable.  He knows when to jump in, his feel is great.  That’s why he’s produced so much offensively over the last couple years.  His instincts are remarkable.”

Schmaltz’s offensive ability is a known commodity around the USHL and it was why Lalonde was willing to ship the hefty package of forward David Goodwin, defensemen Andy Ryan and Dan Molenaar and affiliate list forward Jacob Montgomery to Sioux City for Schmaltz in an early November blockbuster trade.

“It just really solidified our top-four,” Lalonde says.  “It gave us four very good puck-moving defensemen.  The puck spends very little time in our zone now, when you can roll those types of D-men out as often as we do.  Since the trade we are 12-0-1.  I understand you have to give up a lot to get a lot, but he’s been kind of a missing piece of the puzzle for us.”

Schmaltz has fit like a glove for the Gamblers on the ice, but he’s also assimilated quickly with his new teammates.

“It’s been great so far,” Schmaltz says.  “Both teams benefitted from the trade; you always like to see that.  Sioux City was a great organization and I loved all the guys there, but I think they understood.  Once I got to Green Bay I was excited and it’s been nothing but an unbelievable experience so far.  I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

“He’s been great as a teammate and a great fit in the locker room,” Lalonde says.  “It really helps that we have three Chicago-area kids that he played Mission hockey with.  So the transition has been very easy.  He’s fit in and I think he appreciates that we have a good culture here, we expect to win.  He’s just come in and done his part, played his role, and we’ve been very successful since we acquired him.”

The trade could have been an unwelcome disruption during what can be a stressful year for draft-eligible players, but Schmaltz has performed admirably since coming over from the Musketeers and thinks the best is yet to come.

“You have to get used to how guys play, especially on the power play, what guys like to do and their habits,” he says.  “It’s always tough coming to a new team, but the last few games here I think I’ve been playing really well and it’s starting to click a little bit.  I think it’s only going to get better from here.”

HP’s Mark Edwards says that Schmaltz skating is what makes him special. He is able to create time and space for himself because of those feet. I hate making comparisons, but skating wise, he reminded me a little of Scott Niedermayer. Jordan says he models his game after two other emerging stars.

“Drew Doughty and John Carlson are guys I look up to,” Schmaltz says.  “Not only do they take care of their own end, they chip in on the offensive zone and they bring great power play qualities to their teams as well.”

The slick-skating Schmaltz has been a ballyhooed prospect for some time – he first made a non-binding commitment to the University of Wisconsin when he was just 14-years-old.  But his plans changed when coach Mark Osiecki moved to Ohio State.

Schmaltz is set on honoring his new commitment to the University of North Dakota, which has produced NHL stars Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews in recent years, despite being at the center of a tug-of-war between the Canadian junior leagues and collegiate hockey.

In October the Windsor Spitfires went public with their recruitment of the heralded prospect. Schmaltz can’t help being in high demand, but all he’s worried about is fulfilling a life-long dream of attending college and following his family’s legacy.

“I’ve always wanted to go to college,” he says.  “My Dad went to North Dakota, my two uncles, they all played football there.  They’re actually all from there too.  I think it’s a no-brainer to go to North Dakota.  I still want to go the college route and I think ultimately it will make me the best player I can be.”

Like many offensive-minded defensemen, Schmaltz played much of his young life as a forward.  His experience on the attack is what makes him a lethal weapon from the blueline now, but Schmaltz recognizes that his defensive game has room for improvement.

“[I need to work on] continually getting stronger,” Schmaltz says.  “Improving physically, especially in front of the net and things like that.  Just trying to solidify that part of my game is what’s going to help me at the next level and hopefully eventually as a pro.”

Schmaltz believes he’s made big strides in his own end over the course of the last year and has full confidence that Lalonde and the staff at North Dakota will help him continue to grow as a defensive player.

“Last year with coach Luke Strand at Sioux City I think I got a lot better defensively and I think I’m continually getting better at that,” Schmaltz says.  “Little things like net positioning and boxing guys out in front of the net, I think I’m just getting a lot better at.”

Schmaltz’s play in his own zone may be a work in progress, but his offensive ability might be enough to secure him a place high in the first round of June’s entry draft.  But for now, Schmaltz is focused on improving on a daily basis and he isn’t worried about what the future holds.

“I try not to get caught up in all the draft talk and where you’re going to be selected,” he says.  “I just try to continually get better and play my game and show people what I’ve got.  I think that will take care of itself.

“I’m a pretty easygoing guy.  I don’t really think about it.  I don’t get too rattled, if I have a bad game I just try to regroup and do what I do best.”

Drafted in 2012 Round 1 #25 overall by the St. Louis Blues