Most people weren’t all that surprised when the Coyotes pulled the trigger and traded Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini to the Chicago Blackhawks for Nick Schmaltz. We’re already starting to see the fallout of the trade, but for a greater analysis we have teamed up with Matt Lucas, Site Manager from Second City Hockey to get his thoughts on the Coyotes newest player.
1) What did you like about Nick Schmaltz?
Since Schmaltz was drafted 20th overall in 2014, he has been promising and possesses a unique skill-set. A few of the most impressive aspects of Schmaltz’s game include:
Ability to backcheck and take opposing players off the puck
Schmaltz reminds me of Marian Hossa on the backcheck. He has the ability to sneak up behind an opponent carrying the puck, lift his stick, and take the puck right back all in a matter of seconds. Every game, Schmaltz will do this a handful of times. Schmaltz closes the gap on opposing players extremely well, can read where the puck or play is heading two or three passes in advance, and is always hungry to pounce on a miscue or missed pass. This is an intangible that does not get noticed often, because it does not end up on the scoresheet. However, I believe this trait is one of Schmaltz’s greatest assets. Look for Schmaltz to skate half the length of the ice, catch up to the player with the puck, lift his stick, steal the puck, and start a rush the opposite direction. It’s fun to watch.
Here is an example:
Puck Protection and Edge Work
Schmaltz is talented at slowing the game down by utilizing quick turns and puck protection techniques that start regroups and create space for his linemates and himself. Look for this in the neutral and offensive zone. Schmaltz is also skilled in tight spaces, especially near the boards or below the goal line in the offensive zone. He is very strong on his skates and can make defenders look lost with quick, tight turns that opens up a passing lane, a path to the net, or a chance for a quick shot.
Tape to Tape Passing
Schmaltz seems like he has eyes in the back of his head some shifts. He will make passes to players not even on the TV screen yet, through players skates and sticks, on his backhand, forehand, and can even sauce the puck across the ice with ease. He is lethal as a playmaker when he is on his game. He has a lot of chemistry with Hinostroza - they played together in youth hockey. Look for them to create some highlight reel goals.
2) What did you not like in Schmaltz?
Inconsistency in compete level
As aforementioned, when Schmaltz is on a roll he can be a scary good. However, too often he takes shifts, periods, games, or even weeks off at a time. He can go from looking like your team’s future 1st liner to playing like he deserves to be a bottom 6 forward or healthy scratch. It all comes down to work ethic and compete level. For some reason, there is a lack of consistency in that department. If Schmaltz goes 90-100% every shift, he could be an elite playmaker in this league. If Schmaltz continues to occasionally coast and go through the motions, he might end up getting traded again or significantly moved down the depth chart. It’s up to him what path he wants to choose. Hopefully, he chooses the former, because he has the talent to be a special player if he combines his skillset with a consistent compete level.
10 game stretch in October 2018: 1 G, 6 A, 7 PTS, -1
10 game stretch in November 2018: 0 A, 1 G, 1 PT, -5
Lack of confidence in his shot
Schmaltz often decides to pass rather than shoot the puck. It has been a constant thorn in his game for some time now. He could have a wide opportunity in the slot to get a shot off, but instead, Schmaltz decides to force a pass or curl up and look for the late man. He is a great passer and playmaker, but he needs to find a way to get the puck to the net more often. Schmaltz was often playing with Patrick Kane, which made him look for 88 the second he got the puck on his stick. Kane and Schmaltz had spectacular chemistry, but at times it was a bit over exaggerated by Schmaltz. If Schmaltz shot the puck more instead of looking for the ‘pretty play’, he has the potential to be a 30+ goal scorer every season in the NHL.
When he shoots, he can create goals like this:
3) How was Schmaltz often deployed?
- When he is on his game: Second line center or winger on the first line
- When he is off his game: Third line center or winger
- PP1 - Schmaltz usually found himself roaming the slot looking for a one timer on the first power play unit. He would also be an option for a drop pass next to Kane on the power play breakout.
This is how he usually sets up on the PP: https://youtu.be/dlj1fymdkbg?t=65
- OT - Recently, he would be the second or third unit out during 3-on-3 overtime. He would be really good at slowing the 3-on-3 play down and create space for the other two Hawks out there.
4) A memorable moment
One of my favorite goals by Schmaltz. Showcases his speed, hands, puck protection, edge work, and goal scoring ability when he is on the top of his game.
5) Why do you think he was traded?
The front office got tired of watching the lack of compete level, as well as Schmaltz’s inconsistency with his confidence level. Also, Schmaltz was trending downward as a center. He was not improving his face-off numbers and he lacked the physicality to be a reliable center in the defensive zone. Schmaltz started to noticeably shy away from hits this year. Not sure if that is him being afraid of getting hurt or just his new style of play. That is not going to work in the NHL. I think Bowman saw an opportunity to acquire two high potential forwards for the price of one, and took it before Schmaltz’s value dropped anymore. Additionally, Schmaltz was due for a pay raise and extension after the 2018-2019 season. Bowman saw the trade as a chance to offload future money from the books, which would give him more flexibility in the 2019 offseason.
6) Who won the trade?
Please forgive me Coyote fans, but in all honesty, I think the Hawks won this trade. Even if it’s only by a slight margin, I think Bowman found a way to come out on top with the acquisition of two young, high potential forwards in Perlini and Strome for the price of a regressing forward in Schmaltz. Perlini offers the Hawks some much needed depth scoring potential. Strome offers immediate chemistry with DeBrincat, who he dominated with in the OHL, and is above-average in the face-off dot. Being drafted behind McDavid and Eichel would put loads of pressure on anyone. A change in scenery and slotting in the middle next to a familiar face in DeBrincat and a stud in Patrick Kane, could do wonders to his game and help him reach his potential. In his first game with the Blackhawks, Strome had a goal and an assist, and looked really comfortable in the middle between Kane and DeBrincat. Perlini was not much of a factor in his first game, because he was slotted on the fourth line and did not get much ice time. He was just moved up to the first line with Toews and Saad during Wednesday’s practice. It will be interesting to see how he looks in Winnipeg and Nashville if he stays on that first line for a game or two.
If Schmaltz can regain that determination and compete level he had in the early stages of his career, and play hungry at all times then I might have to reconsider my answer. He has tons of potential and is already a proven 20+ goal scorer in the NHL, which is hard to find. I wish him the best and hope he can get back to hustling and playing with confidence every shift, because when he does that he is a special player to watch.
To see our responses to Second City Hockey, check it out here.