2014 NHL Draft: Chicago Blackhawks draft review

By Brad Gardner
Nick Schmaltz - Chicago Blackhawks

Photo: The Blackhawks traded up from 27th to 20th overall in order to select playmaking center Nick Schmaltz from the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Chicago Blackhawks added nine prospects to the organization at the 2014 NHL Draft, led by Wisconsin native and former Chicago Mission forward, Nick Schmaltz.

It was the second consecutive draft in which the Blackhawks selected a local player after West Dundee, Illinois native Ryan Hartman was the club’s first-round pick a year ago. There was an extra level of intrigue around this year’s pick with Nick’s older brother, Jordan, having been a first-round pick of division rival St. Louis in 2012.

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville noted that Schmaltz, “was excited to be picked by us… Maybe a little family rivalry with his brother being the other enemy in St. Louis.”

Schmaltz himself admitted it would be a dream come true to play against his brother as part of the Blues and Blackhawks rivalry, but he also sees the Blackhawks as a good stylistic match. “My game fits right into their style of play,” he said, “and I think that was the best fit for me, too.”

After Schmaltz, the club used three picks between 80th and 100th overall to target forwards with grit and the willingness to play to their size. Six of Chicago’s nine picks turned out to be forwards and injected another layer of organizational depth at all three forward positions.

Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
1st round, 20th overall
Height: 5-11 Weight: 170

Chicago’s first pick in 2014 went, perhaps unsurprisingly, to a college-bound center, Nick Schmaltz. The raw Wisconsin native will join his older brother, Jordan, a first round draft pick of St. Louis in 2012, at the University of North Dakota next fall.

Schmaltz suspected the Blackhawks were interested with the 27th pick, but felt even more sure that he was their guy when the team traded up to the 20th overall pick. The move, which gave the Blackhawks the pick ahead of St. Louis with the 21st pick, said a lot to Schmaltz about how the organization views his future.

“It shows they’re confident in me and I’m going to do my part and show them what I got,” Schmaltz told Hockey’s Future. The Blackhawks were a perfect match, as he explained, “I grew up in Madison, so that’s kind of the closest team to Madison there. I played for the Chicago Mission for five years, drove back and forth from Madison, so I’ve always been a Blackhawks fan.”

The younger Schmaltz is a dynamic, offensive forward. Although he has the reputation of playing uninterested hockey at times, his vision and playmaking ability nonetheless make him a threat any time he touches the puck. He is a quick skater capable of creative puck handling even in tight spaces. The college route should give him plenty of time to add strength and round out his game away from the puck.

The 18-year-old center readily acknowledged that the draft was just the beginning and there was plenty of hard work ahead of him. “Hopefully two to three years at North Dakota,” Schmaltz said of his development plans, “but if it takes four, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes to get to the NHL.”

Although not a draft pick expected to pay immediate dividends, Quenneville acknowledged the solidifying role prospects like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw have played in recent years and liked the prospect of, “adding some skill to our core guys who are still young.”

The Blackhawks traded up from 27th overall to select Schmaltz with the 20th pick in the first round. San Jose received the 27th and 62nd picks in the deal, while also sending the 179th pick to Chicago. The 62nd pick, along with a 2016 fifth-round pick, was the compensation from Florida for Brandon Pirri.

Schmaltz spoke with the media following his selection by the Blackhawks, a conversation that is captured in this HF video.

Matt Iacopelli, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
3rd round, 83rd overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 192

The Blackhawks came into the draft with the 62nd pick early in the third round, but traded it to San Jose in order to move up in the first round. The club acquired this third-round pick at 83rd overall in a draft-day trade with Calgary that saw Brandon Bollig shipped to the Flames in exchange for this pick, used to select Western Michigan commit Matt Iacopelli.

The twenty-year-old winger has been a productive scorer each of the past two seasons, first leading the Bell Tire U18 team in scoring in 2012-13 and then leading the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks with 41 goals and 64 points in 58 games as a 19-year-old.

Iacopelli was older than some USHL competition last year, but even against NCAA players next season, his pro-ready physique should allow him to make a quick impact in the Western Michigan lineup. Despite his size, Iacopelli has the temperament of an offensive forward, and he does not hesitate to unleash his strong shot. The 20-year-old winger should give Broncos head coach Andy Murray a versatile option for his lineup.

Iacopelli spoke with Hockey’s Future at the 2014 NHL Combine, a conversation that is captured in this HF video.

Beau Starrett, C/LW, South Shore Kings (USPHL)
3rd round, 88th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 185

Chicago went with another rugged forward five picks later in Cornell commit Beau Starrett. The 18-year-old forward made his junior hockey debut in 2013-14 with stats. Already at 6’4”, he does not shy away from the corners and using his size to win puck battles. He creates space for his linemates with his size and combines that with solid offensive skills.

Starrett finished second on the Kings in scoring last season, finishing with 47 points in 48 games. He is slated to take another step up in the junior ranks next season with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints before debuting at Cornell during the 2015-16 season.

Starrett spoke with Neate Sager of Yahoo Sports at the 2014 NHL Combine, a conversation that is captured in this HF video.

Fredrik Olofsson, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
4th round, 98th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 185

The Blackhawks’ fourth-round pick added another two-way forward to the draft class, but Fredrik Olofsson was probably not a name many expected to hear at this point of the draft. The younger brother of Minnesota Wild defensive prospect Gustav Olofsson, Fredrik was not ranked in Central Scouting’s final ranking.

The Blackhawks were nonetheless familiar with Olofsson, who opened the year with the Green Bay Gamblers before he was traded to the Bensenville-based Chicago Steel. Olofsson’s numbers improved after the change with 15 of his 21 points on the season coming in the second half of the year with the Steel. The Colorado Thunderbirds product also skated with his birth country Sweden at the U18 level at the Ivan Hlinka.

Olofsson withdrew his commitment to Colorado College, leaving his next step unclear at this point. His CHL rights are owned by the Portland Winterhawks.

Luc Snuggerud, D, Eden Prairie (MN HS)
5th round, 141st overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 180

More than 40 picks after a bit of an off-the-board pick, the Blackhawks took a chance on Minnesota high school defenseman Luc Snuggerud, rated 42nd overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting. The 18-year-old blueliner is the nephew of former NHL player Dave Snuggerud.

An offensive-minded blueliner, Snuggerud was named the 2014 Reed Larson Award winner as the top senior boys’ high school hockey defenseman in the state of Minnesota. The strong-skating defenseman hails from the same high school program that Nick Leddy played for in Eden Prairie. Their styles of play are not dissimilar either, as Snuggerud is at his best when jumping in on the rush or contributing on the power play.

Along with Eden Prairie teammate and Washington sixth-round pick Steven Spinner, Snuggerud will skate for Dean Blais at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season.

Snuggerud spoke with the media at the 2014 NHL Combine, a conversation captured in this HF video.

Andreas Soderberg, D, Skelleftea J20 (Sweden-Jr.)
5th round, 148th overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 200

Chicago added a second defenseman in Andreas Soderberg, a tall, rangy blueliner developing in the junior ranks of the Skelleftea organization in Sweden. Not a player known for his offensive contributions, Soderberg is instead a reliable defensive presence and capable puck mover. Even as a 17-year-old in 2013-14, Soderberg proved capable of competing against older players by keeping his spot on the U20 team for most of his draft year.

Even though he managed to hold his own against U20 level competition, continuing to fill out his 6’4″ frame and improving his all-around game as he develops in Sweden will help determine his prospects for the transition to North America.

Dylan Sikura, C, Aurora Tigers (OJHL)
6th round, 178th overall
Height: 5-11 Weight: 149

Dylan Sikura brings more offensive skill to the 2014 draft class, albeit presently in an undersized package. Committed to Northeastern, the 19-year-old forward will get a chance to skate with Kevin Roy (ANH), another diminutive player with loads of offensive flair.

Sikura has the skills to skate in a top-six role for Northeastern, giving the team’s lineup an added dimension of offensive instincts and playmaking ability. He broke out offensively in his third OJHL season with Aurora, finishing with 64 points in 41 games in 2013-14.

Ivan Nalimov, G, SKA St. Petersburg Jr (MHL)
6th round, 179th overall
Height: 6-5 Weight: 211

The lone goaltender drafted by Chicago in 2014, Ivan Nalimov is a lanky netminder that can cover a lot of net. He was the 12th overall pick in the 2011 KHL Draft by SKA St. Petersburg, making a dozen appearances for the club’s junior team in 2013-14. The 20-year-old goalie also made a couple appearances for Team Russia at the 2014 World Junior Championships and turned heads for the Russian squad with standout performances during the Subway Super Series.

“We think he needs technique,” said Blackhawks Director of Amateur Scouting, Mark Kelley. “He’s 20 years old, he played with the World Junior team with Russia, so he does have experience. We like the upside, and with goaltenders, a lot of it is maturity where they are.”

Nalimov will likely continue developing in Russia for the immediate future.

Jack Ramsey, RW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
7th round, 208th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 174

Chicago’s final pick in 2014 again went to another raw forward prospect in Jack Ramsey, a 6’2″ winger from the Penticton Vees. Ramsey is the son of former NHL defenseman and member of the 1980 US Men’s hockey team, Mike Ramsey.

A former standout for Minnetonka High School, Ramsey scores 25 points in 57 games as a rookie for Penticton. Ramsey will follow in his father’s footsteps and attend the University of Minnesota in 2015, giving him a chance to increase his ice time and continue developing his game in his second BCHL season in 2014-15.