TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward prospect Nick Schmaltz finally had an opportunity to go head-to-head against the one player he idolized as a teenager during the Traverse City prospects tournament at Centre Ice Arena this week.
In the end, St. Louis Blues defense prospect Jordan Schmaltz got the best of his little brother with a goal, an assist, two shots on goal and a plus-2 rating in a 3-2 victory on Friday. Nick Schmaltz had no points and two shots on goal.
"It was the first time we ever played against each other, so it was fun watching him play; he had a great game," said Nick (6-foot, 179 pounds). "Hopefully, one day we'll get a regular-season NHL game in against each other."
Jordan (6-2, 192) felt he knew exactly what Nick was thinking each time he controlled the puck.
"It's weird, and I'm sure he thought the same thing, but I knew what he was going to do," Jordan said. "It was funny going 1-on-1; I think I made a couple of plays, but Nick thinks the game at a high level and to defend against a guy like that will only help me going into training camp."
The respect Jordan, 22, and Nick, 20, have for each other, even during the heat of battle, is palpable.
"We both have dreamed of getting to this level and obviously we want to make an NHL roster," Nick said. "The two of us have grown up together, have pushed each other, and it shows; hard work does pay off."
It isn't by accident the Wisconsin natives took the same path. They each played for the Chicago Mission bantam major team, Green Bay of the United States Hockey League and the University of North Dakota. Jordan was selected by the Blues with the No. 25 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft and signed a three-year entry-level contract with St. Louis on May 28, 2015. Nick was chosen by the Blackhawks with the No. 20 pick of the 2014 draft and signed a three-year entry-level contract with Chicago on June 19.
Nick centered the top line at North Dakota as a sophomore last season with Edmonton Oilers prospect Drake Caggiula and Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser, helping the Fighting Hawks win a national title. Nick had 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) and a plus-44 rating in 37 games, and could be playing for the Blackhawks at some point this season. Chicago lost a few offensive pieces during the offseason, including center Andrew Shaw (traded to the Montreal Canadiens) and left wing Teuvo Teravainen (traded to the Carolina Hurricanes).
"I think there's obviously opportunity," Nick said. "There's a lot of guys working for it and I'm just going to do everything in my power to show them what I got, show them I deserve a spot in the NHL. [Management] said there are spots open and whoever wants it more will get those spots. So I'm doing everything I can to work as hard as I can, day in and day out, to prove my game."
Jordan left a favorable impression in his first season with Chicago of the American Hockey League, finishing with 36 points (six goals, 30 assists) in 71 games, following three seasons at North Dakota.
"As a second-year guy [in Traverse City], I know what to expect and I have a familiarity with the tournament … so that helps," Jordan said. "I just need to play my game; this is a stepping stone."
Jordan smiled when asked why he preferred playing defense when his brother stars at forward.
"I played forward a little bit growing up, but developed more as a defenseman in pee-wee," Jordan said. "At UND, I played with him (in 2014-15) on the power play and he thinks the game the same way I do. He will usually give you the puck."
Nick had a breakout year at North Dakota last season, which led to signing a professional contract.
"I think it was just my play away from the puck [that helped me improve]; I was coming back and stripping guys who had the puck," he said. "I was transitioning and making plays offensively. I think prior to last season I wasn't coming back as hard as I could have, and I think I made a huge jump and it showed last season."
Their parents, Mike and Lisa, weren't on hand to witness the head-to-head match in Traverse City; they traveled to the University of Kentucky to be with their daughter, Kylie, a freshman who plays volleyball for the Wildcats and was also celebrating a birthday.
Jordan will never forget the days when he teamed with Kylie to play against Nick.
"We had a competitive household; had a hockey room in our basement," Jordan said. "It would always be me and my sister vs. Nick, because it was the oldest and the youngest against him. We were running the full-court press on him; we'd chip it in and go muck."