It’s no secret that Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz’s speed can make a difference. ‘‘There are very few players in the league who can carry the puck at the speed he does,’’ teammate Tommy Wingels said. ‘‘He pushes the pace through the middle as well as I’ve seen in this league. Maybe [Oilers star] Connor McDavid does it better, but [Schmaltz] creates so much with that speed through the middle. It opens up wide lanes. ‘‘You see that with Kaner [Patrick Kane]. He loves playing with [Schmaltz] because it gives him more space. It packs the [defense] up. It forces guys to play the middle more and opens up space for Kaner. [Schmaltz] is a heckuva player. And he’s continuing to get better as the year goes on.’’ It’s that improvement that bodes well not only for Schmaltz but for several of the Hawks’ young players who are beginning to assert themselves with greater authority. Schmaltz, 21, not only has speed, but he is learning how to use it. After scoring in the Hawks’ 4-3 overtime loss Saturday to the Flames, he has 10 goals and 21 points in his last 21 games. ‘‘Once you realize you can play and you realize it’s hockey and you’re just at a really high level, you can make those plays you’ve always made and hold on to the puck,’’ Schmaltz said. ‘‘[You] just play your game and try not to overthink anything.
As Blackhawks’ veteran core withers, Nick Schmaltz, next generation stepping up
Chicago Sun-Times | Feb 5