Birthplace: Verona, Wisconsin, 10/8/93
Bio: 6’2, 185 lbs., R
Green Bay Gamblers, USHL
Rankings: ISS – 46; CSS – 34 (NA)
The Skinny: Possessing a pro frame and elite offensive skill, defenseman Jordan Schmaltz is an exciting young prospect – but questions about his wheels, grit and defense make him a very divisive 2012-eligible.
Jordan Schmaltz came into the 2011-12 season as one of the premier offensive defensemen in the entirety of the junior hockey world. He was expected to challenge Jacob Trouba for the honor of being the first American defenseman off the board in 2012. Early-on he was arguably a top-ten talent. Now, less than a year later, some analysts and scouts believe that Schmaltz might not even hear his name called in the first forty picks.
That’s a long way to fall for a young man who’s debatably the best attacking blueliner available. Indeed, while he’s failed to meet last season’s production levels, Schmaltz’s offense is still highly-regarded. The North Dakota commit has elite hands, a booming shot and superlative distribution skills. He may be one of the top powerplay quarterbacks eligible in 2012 and some have argued that his attacking-zone game is near that (perhaps equal to) surefire first-round blueliners Morgan Rielly of Moose Jaw and Derrick Pouliot of Portland.
His transition game is equally laudable. Schmaltz is an excellent puck-mover – quickly and efficiently reading the forecheck before passing it forward or jumping into the rush. He’s very willing to jump aggressively (and deeply) into the offensive zone.
Schmaltz has improved his defensive game significantly this season – but perhaps not enough. He analyzes the attack and does a good job using his impressive frame to clog lanes and manage the play. While not a physical player, he’s developed an effective sweep-check which frequently dispossesses opponents.
While some have argued to the contrary, Schmaltz’s skating game leaves a bit to be desired. His four-direction mobility is less than ideal and he has neither the elite acceleration nor the top speed scouts are looking for. His wheels aren’t ‘poor’ by his size or positional standards, but puck-movers and offensive blueliners are expected to be borderline-elite skaters – and Schmaltz just isn’t.
Additionally, some have pointed out the Wisconsin native’s unwillingness to play a physical game as a major flaw. Teams are looking for at least a modest and intermittent commitment to the checking game from blueliners of his physical attributes. Furthermore, some take it a step further and argue he won’t take the hits needed to make plays in the aggressive forechecking landscape of the NHL, that he’ll bail early – making him very turnover-prone.
His decision-making is a bit off at times. In addition to too many ‘soft’ turnovers, Schmaltz seems to have a propensity for pinching in the offensive zone at the wrong time and occasionally leaving his defensive partner out to dry.
With so many major question-marks and the bevy of talented defensemen in this class, Jordan Schmaltz may be the seventh or even eighth American drafted in 2012. Still, he has a very high offensive ceiling and could be one of the steals of the draft if he falls far in round two. Even in the mid-to-late thirties he has solid value and could quarterback a franchise’s powerplay for the next decade.
Ideal Fits: Teams in the second round who’d like to take a chance on a high-end offensive talent from the blueline: Columbus, New York Isles, Edmonton, Minnesota, Tampa Bay.
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because his size and obviously elite offensive skill make him a very desirable commodity.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because he’s a high-risk prospect; because he’s got significant holes in his game – particularly defensively; because he’s a timid player in the dirty areas.
Strengths: Playmaking, Shooting, Offensive Acumen, Vision, Hands, Hockey IQ, Size
Weaknesses/Concerns: Skating, Physicality, Defensive Game, Strength, Turnover Propensity
Projection: Bottom-Pairing Offensive Defenseman/Elite Powerplay QB (15g, 45p potential)
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: Second Round (32-46)
Overall Rank: 38
N.A. Rank: 28
USHL Rank: 7
Defensemen Rank: 16
U.S. National Rank: 7
1.) Seth Jones – D – 6’4, 205
2.) Nathan MacKinnon – C – 5’11, 180
3.) Jonathan Drouin – LW – 5’11, 175
4.) Aleksander Barkov – C – 6’3, 205
5.) Elias Lindholm – C – 6’0, 185
6.) Sean Monahan – C – 6’2, 195
7.) Valeri Nichushkin – RW – 6’3, 175
8.) Hunter Shinkaruk – LW – 5’11, 175
9.) Ryan Pulock – D – 6’1, 205
10.) Nikita Zadorov – D – 6’5, 220
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