Sophomore Jordan Schmaltz (STL) is in the midst of a breakout season with the University of North Dakota and is one of college hockey’s rising young defensemen. The Verona, WI native currently co-leads the team with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 40 games. He and senior defensive partner Dillon Simpson (EDM) comprised arguably the NCHC’s best defensive tandem this season.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Schmaltz after practice on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA for this interview.
Q: You guys nearly missed making the NCAA Tournament and now here you are in the Frozen Four. How does it feel to be here?
JS: It feels great, especially going back to that last game in our conference tournament where we had to beat Western Michigan in the third place game and seeing if UMass-Lowell and Wisconsin would also win. If they won, it would help us and thank God they did. And here we are in the NCAA Tournament and now the Frozen Four.
Q: To get here, you guys had to beat not only a very good Wisconsin team but also a very good Ferris State team in the Midwest Regional. Did beating those teams give you guys an added boost of confidence coming into the Frozen Four?
JS: Yeah, for sure. Obviously they’re both very good teams as you said. Anytime you beat two pretty good teams, that’s going to give you some added confidence. So we feel like a confident group right now and hopefully that will translate well Thursday night.
Q: You have been playing alongside Dillon Simpson all season. What has it been like playing with Dillon and what makes the chemistry between the two of you work so well?
JS: For me, it’s been huge being paired with the same guy all year. I think that allows us to build chemistry and we learned more about each other such as the other’s tendencies and stuff like that. Dillon is such a great player. He’s a great puck-mover and shutdown guy and he can contribute some offense as well. I think playing with him has helped me so much because it’s helped me gain more confidence. I think we complement each other really well.
Q: What was something that you’ve learned from playing with Dillon that has made you a better player?
JS: First I’d say is shot-blocking. I think he has over 100 shot blocks so far. (Laughs) So I try to make some of those once in a while, too. I think he’s also helped me become a better two-way defenseman, as well. You can be offensive but ultimately you have to be able to play defense, too. You have to responsible in your own zone. Take care of that first and then the offense comes. So I think those are some of the biggest things that I’ve learned.
Q: What are some of the things that you’ve worked on this season that have made you a better player?
JS: I think one of the differences from this year to last year is that I’ve worked on my offense and I feel like I’m getting into the play more. I think my (defensive) decisions are better, too. So those are two things that I think has allowed me to make strides in my game.
Q: I know that you’re a St. Louis Blues prospect. Did you go to their prospect camp last summer?
Q: What were some of the things that you learned at the camp that you’ve been able to bring to North Dakota this season that has made you a better player?
JS: Well, at the Blues camp we don’t actually skate. It’s more of things like off-ice workouts, learning about nutrition and things like that. It’s different but it’s nice to get a good read on the Blues’ other prospects. So it was good.
Q: Did you guys ever do any drill stuff or were you just never on the ice at the camp?
JS: We were never on the ice.
Q: Did it surprise you that you weren’t skating at all at the camp?
JS: The first Blues (prospect) camp that I went to was just after they drafted me. When I was invited to go there, I was expecting to skate, but they said not to bring my gear. So I said “uh…ok”. (Laughs) When I went last year, which was my second camp, we did the same thing. So I think the first time was a little more surprising than the second.
Q: Have you been in touch with the Blues and how closely are they keeping tabs on you?
JS: Yeah, I’ve talked to them a little bit this year. I spoke with them about two months ago. They basically said that they want me to keep developing, focus on what I needed to do this year and stuff like that, and we’ll talk to you (again) after the season. They also watch me pretty closely, too. So I just focus on what I need to do now and worry about everything else later.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF