The Chicago Blackhawks have signed top prospect Nick Schmaltz to a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced Sunday. Reports surfaced earlier in the day that the two sides agreed to the deal, which is now official.
Schmaltz's status had been uncertain and recent reports indicated he was leaning towards returning to the University of North Dakota for another year. Circumstances might've changed over the past few days, however, leading the 2014 first-round pick to leave college.
Schmaltz signing with the Blackhawks now makes a ton of sense. The team just traded away young forward Teuvo Teravainen to the Hurricanes to clear Bryan Bickell's contract and has a major need for a top-six forward entering next season. Schmaltz is the most talented prospect in the team's system and looks NHL-ready after a big year.
During the 2015-16 season, Schmaltz won a national championship with North Dakota as one of the top playmakers in the country. In 37 NCAA games, he put up 11 goals and 35 assists. The 20-year-old also had a productive performance at the 2016 World Junior Championship, recording two goals and six assists in seven games as Team USA won a bronze medal.
This is a huge move for Chicago. The team's depth chart looked a bit thin in terms of skill up top after the Teravainen trade and Schmaltz is a major injection of talent. The forward should immediately become of the Hawks' most talented playmakers and presumably will get a shot at a big role from Day 1. Hopefully he's ready to make a real impact because the Hawks could use it.