Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Schmaltz striving for improvement at prospect camp

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Blackhawks: Schmaltz striving for improvement at prospect camp

Nick Schmaltz is a little more familiar with the drill this offseason.

He knows what to expect, knows what strides he made in his game during his first year in college and how he can try to improve this week. And the competition is there, even if it’s the offseason.

“It’s a lot different paying in the summer,” Schmaltz said. “Guys aren’t in midseason shape, but it’s still fast.”

[MORE HAWKS: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity]

Schmaltz, who was selected 20th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Draft, is participating in his second Blackhawks prospect camp this week. For the 19-year-old forward, these few days are an opportunity to see how far he’s come since his first camp last summer.

“I’m going to really push myself and try to get better this week,” he said. “There’s a lot of great staff out there and guys who want to help everyone get better. I’ll try to use them and try to compete as well as I can, day in and day out.”

Outside of a minor wrist injury that cost him a few games, Schmaltz had a good freshman season at the University of North Dakota. He recorded five goals and 21 assists in 38 games. Schmaltz said he’s felt the difference in his game from where he started to where he is now.

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“I got stronger on pucks and just stronger in my legs,” Schmaltz said. “It’s being able to outwork guys and out-battle them, where as last year I was a lot weaker. I’m just excited to get back to North Dakota and improve my game.”

Prospect camp has been good the second time around for Schmaltz, who will return to North Dakota this fall. He’s happy with the progress he’s made to this point but he knows there’s still much to learn.

“I thought I developed in some areas of my game that I needed to. I got a little stronger,” Schmaltz said. “So I think going back I just have to keep pushing myself to get better in all aspects of my game if I want to get back to the next level.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: