Nick Schmaltz set to make AHL debut with Rockford IceHogs

Schmaltz is going to start his first game in Rockford on a line with Spencer Abbott and Tanner Kero.

When news came down that Nick Schmaltz was headed to Rockford with Chicago needing a professional goalie (Lars Johansson) to backup Scott Darling in Corey Crawford’s absence, fans in Rockford must have jumped for joy.

The only person who might not consider this a good situation is Schmaltz. Let’s face it, there aren’t any of us who care about our profession, whatever it may be, who would feel good about being demoted. Schmaltz is saying the right things, but he’d surely rather be back in the NHL as soon as possible.

However, there’s no doubt that for Schmaltz, the IceHogs, IceHogs fans, and the Blackhawks, this is the best thing for this talented rookie. Had this been any of the prior years for the Blackhawks, there wouldn’t be room for Schmaltz in the lineup. He would have been immediately sent to Rockford at the start of the season. With the talent on the Hawks not what it has been in recent years, they’ve had to rely on rookies to fill several roles, and thus there was room for Schmaltz. There isn’t a knowing eye that would tell you Chicago was the right place for him right now. So, Crawford being sidelined with an emergency appendectomy may be a blessing in disguise when it comes to Schmaltz’s development.

The story with the IceHogs this year has been a serious lack of scoring. And, let’s face it, with the roster as it stood before Schmaltz’s arrival that comes as no surprise. The current team scoring for the IceHogs sits at 49 goals after 22 games. That’s a meager 2.23 goals per game (and they’ve given up 69 total — 3.14 per game — in that same span).

Journeyman Spencer Abbott leads the team in goals with five in 21 games played. If you recall, he was the co-leader at four goals about two weeks ago. There just is not the talent to produce much scoring right now. It has been a tough watch so far this season to say the least. Schmaltz immediately becomes the best offensive weapon in the IceHogs’ lineup, bringing the team and fans the hope of more scoring and more excitement.

The question becomes, who are the IceHogs going to put with Schmaltz as he polishes his impressive skill set? In his AHL debut on Wednesday night, he’s going to open the game with Abbott and Tanner Kero, as confirmed by Rockford head coach Ted Dent.

Going forward, there are only a couple of options for the IceHogs to put together a line that could do some damage, and both of them involve Schmaltz and Abbott. On the other side of Schmaltz, Kero is getting the first crack, although another former first-round pick, Mark McNeill, could be an alternative.

Kero and McNeill are tied with Abbott in points, both having four goals and nine assists so far this season. If paired with McNeill, the IceHogs would have to decide who’s going to play where. Both McNeill and Abbott are right wings, although McNeill is listed on the IceHogs’ roster as a center. If paired with Kero, you’ll likely see Schmaltz at center, Abbott at right wing, and Kero at left wing, although Kero is listed as a center on the IceHogs’ roster as well.

Wednesday will help us start to answer these questions. I will let you know how the Schmaltz debut goes.