2008-09: Nate Schmidt was one of the top defensemen in Minnesota high school hockey as a junior for Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. In 25 games he scored 21 goals with 24 assists and had 30 penalty minutes. Schmidt committed to playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota in 2010-11.
2009-10: Schmidt chose to play junior hockey rather than returning for his senior season at Cathedral. He was the leading scorer amongst defensemen for Fargo in his first USHL season. He scored 14 goals with 23 assists in 57 regular season games and was -7 with 81 penalty minutes. The Force finished second in the West Conference and reached the Clark Cup finals against Green Bay. Schmidt had 6 assists in 13 playoff games and was -8 with 2 penalty minutes.
2010-11: Schmidt skated in 13 games for Minnesota as a freshman — spending time playing left wing as well as his regular defense spot. He had 1 assist and was an even plus/minus with 6 penalty minutes. The Gophers struggled to stay above .500 much of the season, finishing fifth in the WCHA, and were swept by Alaska-Anchorage in a first round playoff series.
2011-12: Schmidt had a breakout sophomore season as part of a young defense corps that played a key role in Minnesota’s resurgence. The fourth-leading scorer for the Gophers (and leader amongst defensemen), he scored 3 goals with a team-leading 38 assists and was +24 with 14 penalty minutes in 43 games. Minnesota finished first in the WCHA and after an upset loss to North Dakota in the WCHA semifinals defeated the Fighting Sioux the following weekend in the NCAA West Regional Final to earn a spot in the Frozen Four. The Gophers lost to eventual national champion Boston College, 6-1, in the semifinals.
2012-13: Schmidt signed a two-year entry-level contract with Washington in April 2013 and made his pro debut with Capitals AHL affiliate Hershey following his junior season at Minnesota. In eight regular season games with Hershey he scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was -4 with 2 penalty minutes. The Bears finished fourth in the East Division and lost to Atlantic Division champion Providence in a first round playoff series. Schmidt had 2 assists and was +1 in five playoff games. He was the top offensive defensemen for Minnesota in his final season, scoring 9 goals with 23 assists in 40 games, and was +16 with 16 penalty minutes. Minnesota finished tied for first with St. Cloud State in the WCHA regular season. The Gophers season came to a disappointing end as Minnesota lost to Colorado College, 2-0, in the WCHA semifinals and fell to national champion Yale, 3-2 in overtime in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.
2013-14: Schmidt made his NHL debut for the Capitals in an October 12th game against Colorado — splitting the season between Washington and AHL affiliate Hershey. He scored 2 goals with 4 assists and was +4 with 6 penalty minutes in 29 NHL games with the Capitals. In 38 AHL games for the Bears he scored 2 goals with 11 assists and was -5 with 12 penalty minutes. Hershey finished fourth in the East Division, two points behind Norfolk for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Schmidt was tendered a qualifying offer by Washington and signed a one-year contract with the Capitals as a restricted free agent in July 2014.
Schmidt’s game screams “solid yet unspectacular”. He has decent size at 6’0, and 195, but plays a quality defensive game, controlling gaps and isolating opposing players away from the net. He is not physical by any sense of the imagination, but will play the body when necessary. Schmidt is a smooth skater and shows strong offensive tools, though does not necessarily qualify as a “puck-moving” defenseman. He plays a quiet, solid all-around game.
Schmidt signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Capitals in the summer which all but assures he will start the 2015-16 season in Washington. With Mike Green out the door, Schmidt will fill a bottom-pairing role and look to provide more offense in his first full season in the nation’s capital. Given his offensive capabilities, he could see spot time on the team’s second power play unit, though that remains far from a certainty. Schmidt’s upside is not much higher than it currently is right now; he should find a consistent role on the bottom pairing for the Capitals going forward.