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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published June 21 2012

Sioux recruit expected to go in early rounds of today’s NHL draft

GRAND FORKS – Jordan Schmaltz didn’t follow the different NHL Draft rankings as they came out each month this winter.

“I was worrying about my team, striving to win a championship,” he said.

In the end, Schmaltz was successful in both endeavors.

The University of North Dakota defenseman recruit led the Green Bay Gamblers to a United States Hockey League title and, in turn, solidified himself as a top prospect for the NHL Draft, which begins with the first round tonight in Pittsburgh.

Schmaltz is in Pittsburgh for the event along with his family, which includes his father Mike, a former Sioux football player, and his brother Nick, a 2014 Sioux hockey recruit. Jordan is expected to go in either the first or second rounds.

“It would be nice to go (today), but if it doesn’t happen, I’m ready for anything,” said Schmaltz, who grew up in Madison, Wis. “I just hope that the team that drafts me really likes me and really believes in me. That’s the most important thing.”

Green Bay coach Derek Lalonde, who previously was an assistant coach at the University of Denver, said Schmaltz helped his draft stock with his play in the USHL playoffs and is prepared to step into a Western Collegiate Hockey Association lineup this fall.

“He’s a special, special defenseman in transition with the puck in all three areas – getting the puck out of the zone, through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone,” Lalonde said. “His poise is special. He ran our power play and was very effective. His ability to transition the puck is elite … very elite.

“He took everything in stride this year. He’s very professional. He never turned down a single person, media, NHL teams. … He knew it was part of it. He’s a very confident kid, too.”

NHL scout David Gregory told the league’s website that Schmaltz “is the type of player everybody wants on their team, because he’s a puck-moving offensive defenseman who can see opportunities, spring forward and make the great pass from any situation. He loves to join in the rush and has that skating ability to sort of take the risk of taking the puck deep, and being able to get back using his skating ability.”

Schmaltz was projected as a possible top 10 pick a year ago. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau rated him the No. 35 North American skater for the draft. He could go today in the first round (6 p.m., NBC Sports Network) or early Saturday when Round 2 begins at 9 a.m. (NHL Network).

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster where people are projecting him,” Lalonde said. “If anything, his stock rose down the stretch. His best hockey was when it counted the most. His play in the playoffs will put him at ease on draft night, no matter what happens. His best hockey was not only in the playoffs, in the deciding fifth game (of the Clark Cup Finals), he may have had his best game of the year.”

Schmaltz interviewed with 24 of 30 NHL teams at the NHL Combine last month. He said almost all of the teams asked if he would be attending UND or if he would bolt to the Ontario Hockey League after the draft, like UND recruit J.T. Miller did a year ago.

“I just told them honestly that I am 100 percent to UND,” Schmaltz said. “They were fine with that. They’re happy I’m sticking with my commitment.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald