(The top 10 continues in our ranking of the Hawks' best players under 25 years old! Check out all the previous entries in the series with our storystream.)
Nick Schmaltz is the most exasperating prospect in the Blackhawks' system. A gifted offensive player who can create scoring opportunities completely on his own, Schmaltz can look like the best player on his ice when he's going good. The lack of a complete two-way game leaves him disappearing for long stretches of games, however, and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever find a way to deal with the size and physicality of the NHL's best forwards.
The good parts of Schmaltz's game are truly exciting. He's a fantastic skater who can make highly skilled plays both as a passer and a scorer, shows unusually good vision for his age and understands how to approach angles to set up chances. In 38 games with the University of North Dakota as a freshman, Schmaltz recorded 26 points (five goals, 21 assists). Those are good-not-great numbers, but just look at the above picture. Schmaltz can put guys on the ice with his deft skating and stick-handling.
But man, the red flags are everywhere. Schmaltz is "a major work in progress" as an all-around player, as ESPN's Corey Pronman wrote in his Blackhawks prospect rankings. He has trouble fighting off size, and the players he'll face in the NHL will be way bigger, faster and stronger than in college. Unlike Teuvo Teravainen, a similarly sized player, Schmaltz hasn't quite figured out how to use his positioning and speed to compensate when battling against bigger players. Entering his sophomore year at UND, he needs to show there's more to his game.
What's undeniable is that Schmaltz has the talent to overcome those issues. Drafted No. 20 overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft after being ranked No. 19 in the class by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, Schmaltz has widely been considered one of the top young offensive talents in hockey. Guys who can create offensively are always at a premium, and Schmaltz could be that caliber of player.
It's clear that some analysts are growing concerned with his lack of progress as an all-around player, though. Schmaltz didn't even get an honorable mention for Pronman's Top 100 list after being ranked No. 40 in January. An influx of talented prospects from the 2015 class helps explain the drop, but it's apparent that Schmaltz hasn't helped his stock much since being drafted.
With that said, the key to a good farm system is a diverse array of prospects. That includes some high-upside, high-risk fliers like Schmaltz. Maybe he never even makes it to the NHL, but sometimes you gotta take a player like that and hope you strike it rich. The Blackhawks still could with Schmaltz, who doesn't turn 20 until February and has a lot of hockey ahead of him. There's just not a player in the system with a greater spectrum of possibilities, both good and bad.
Schmaltz could be rolling on the second line as a playmaking center in five years, or he could be on the fringe of professional hockey leaving us all wondering what could've been. He's an exciting, fun, risky prospect. Every organization can use a few of those. Hopefully Schmaltz can get going in the right direction in 2015-16.
Birth date: Feb. 23, 1996 (age 19)
Acquired via: First round (No. 20 overall) in 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: University of North Dakota (NCAA)
Size: 6'0, 177 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, set to play 2015-16 season at UND
Highest ranking: No. 4
Lowest ranking: No. 6