|2014 first-round selection Nick Schmaltz (left) led the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers with 63 points (18G, 45A) last season, while third-round pick Matheson Iacopelli paced the USHL with 41 goals while starring for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Both prospects are headed to college in the fall. (Photos courtesy Green Bay Gamblers and Brandon Anderson)
An overview of the Blackhawks’ nine 2014 NHL Draft picks, including what hockey operations staff and college head coaches are saying and where they're likely to play next year.
Nick Schmaltz, C
Acquired: Round 1, 20th overall
Current team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Skilled and creative with the puck, Schmaltz is an elite playmaker who led the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers with 63 points (18G, 45A) in 55 regular-season games last season. Prior to the draft, one NHL scout enthused that Schmaltz has the ability to “own the puck during a game," while Blackhawks Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley evaluated his skill set as “right around the top of the draft.”
Although Schmaltz isn’t the most vocal guy, he has a good demeanor in the locker room. Amateur Scout Mike Doneghey refers to him as “a focused, driven kid.”
One imperative for the Verona, Wis., native is adding some heft to his 172-pound frame, which he’ll have every opportunity to do during his college career at the University of North Dakota, where he’s headed this fall to join his brother, Jordan (a St. Louis draft pick), as well as 2013 Blackhawks draft pick Luke Johnson. Due to his size and his offense-first game, Schmaltz may start on the wing, but if he can develop a 200-foot game, he should project as a fine center going forward.
Matheson Iacopelli, RW
Acquired: Round 3, 83rd overall
Current team: Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: Western Michigan University (NCHC)
Iacopelli led the USHL with 41 goals last season, including a whopping 12 on the power play. At 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, the 20-year-old has impressive offensive instincts and is one of the more physically mature prospects taken by the Blackhawks in this year’s draft. The Woodhaven, Mich., native benefited from extra time in the USHL and boasts a well-developed skill set. According to Kelley, “He’s got a pro body, he’s got a pro shot.” Heading to Western Michigan this fall, Iacopelli will get an opportunity to refine his game and become more responsible in all three zones.
Beau Starrett, C
Acquired: Round 3, 88th overall
Current team: South Shore Kings (USPHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Between his size and his skating, Starrett oozes upside, which made him a great gamble for Chicago in the third round. The Bellingham, Mass., native towered over others in his draft class at nearly 6-foot-5, but needs time to round out his game, which includes time in the weight room. Starrett posted 47 points (11G, 36A) in 48 regular-season games with the USPHL’s South Shore Kings in 2013-14, but will play with Dubuque in the USHL next season. Then he’ll head to Cornell in 2015-16, becoming the fourth of four brothers to play college hockey.
“Give him a couple of years, and he’s got a lot of potential,” said Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman. “We like the all-around game that he has, and he’s got skills offensively. When you have that size and can move around the ice, you have a really good chance in today’s game.”
Frederik Olofsson, LW
Acquired: Round 4, 98th overall
Current team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: Colorado College (NCHC)
From Sweden by way of Colorado, Olofsson split last season with the Green Bay Gamblers and Chicago Steel, combining for 21 points (6G, 15A) in 52 games and seeing time at both center and wing. He also played at the international level with Sweden, including at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Olofsson skates well and likes to protect the puck and could develop into anything from a power winger to a gritty checking forward. He’ll have a few years to carve out a role for himself at Colorado College.
Luc Snuggerud, D
Acquired: Round 5, 141st overall
Current team: Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: University of Nebraska–Omaha (NCHC)
Snuggerud earned the Reed Larson Award as the top senior defenseman in Minnesota high school hockey last season after showcasing impressive wheels and puck-moving skills. He reportedly played through the state championships with a broken hand, then went on to a couple of short stays with Muskegon and Omaha in the USHL. Snuggerud will begin his collegiate career in the fall at Nebraska–Omaha, where the Blackhawks hope he will develop in his own end while continuing to hone his offensive game.
UNO Head Coach Dean Blais on Snuggerud’s talents: “Luc has great offensive ability and skates very, very well. He makes a good pass, and not just an outlet pass—he has creativity in all areas of the ice. He can make something out of nothing with his offensive ability.”
Andreas Soderberg, D
Acquired: Round 5, 148th overall
Current team: Skelleftea J20 (SWE)
Projected 2014-15 team: Skelleftea J20
Soderberg’s size is the first thing scouts notice about him, but with the 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame comes a mobile, mature defensive game that has become a hallmark of the Blackhawks’ recent Swedish draft picks. “He is an honest player that uses his size and reach to his advantage,” said Head European Amateur Scout Niklas Blomgren. “He reads the play well and plays a smart defensive game, keeping the puck and opposing players on the outside.”
Soderberg will begin the 2014-15 campaign with Skelleftea’s junior team, but the new CBA allows teams up to four years on rights to European players, giving him more time to develop. A strong start to the season could put him in contention to make Sweden’s World Juniors squad, along with 2013 draft picks Robin Norell—who played in last year’s tournament—and Carl Dahlstrom.
Dylan Sikura, C
Acquired: Round 6, 178th overall
Current team: Aurora Tigers (OJHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: Northeastern University (H-EAST)
Sikura makes up for his diminutive stature with tons of vision, smooth passing and a willingness to go to the net; he models his game after Patrick Kane and Tyler Ennis. Standing at 5-foot-11, but weighing just 149 pounds, Sikura will need to work on adding strength and muscle when he arrives at Northeastern University this fall, especially if he hopes to stand out in the ultra-competitive Hockey East—but the tools are there.
Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan describes Sikura as “an offensively skilled player who is smart and a really good skater. He’s a distributor who has the ability to score as well. “
Ivan Nalimov, G
Acquired: Round 6, 179th overall
Current team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg Jr. (KHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg Jr.
Nalimov was a bit of a surprise pick for the Blackhawks, even in the sixth round; he struggled domestically but did make Russia’s World Juniors squad. But the 20-year-old netminder has displayed plenty of skill in his three seasons with SKA’s junior squad in the MHL, making him an intriguing project for Chicago’s development staff.
“There’s a lot that we like about Nalimov,” Kelley said. “He’s a really big goaltender [at 6-foot-5], he’s very athletic, and we think he really wants to come to North America. He needs technique. We like the upside.”
Jack Ramsey, RW
Acquired: Round 7, 208th overall
Current team: Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Projected 2014-15 team: Penticton
Ramsey comes from a hockey family; his dad, Mike, was a member of the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 Olympic team. He’s got good size—6-foot-2, 175 pounds—and plays a north-south, all-around game that yielded 25 points (9G, 16A) in 57 regular-season games with the Penticton Vees last season while seeing time on the power play and penalty kill.
"He competes, he skates well for his size and he finishes his checks with authority," said Chief Amateur Scout Bruce Franklin. "His understanding of the game and his work ethic stand out." The Chanhassen, Minn., native will hone his power game with Penticton for another year before joining the Golden Gophers down the road.