TORONTO — NHL draft prospect Jordan Schmaltz sounded as committed as any NCAA-bound teen has about his decsion on Friday.
"I'm 100 per cent committed to North Dakota," said the projected second-round choice, who's been the subject of speculation over whether he'll play since his OHL rights are held by the resourceful Windsor Spitfires, a possible contender next season. "I think it's going to be great for me. Get a lot faster, get a lot stronger. It's a great system with a great coach, Dave Hakstol. They have a great facility with a great strength coach, Mark Poolman, who's helped a lot of guys get to the NHL."
Each year, there's a fistful of prospects who have NCAA commitments but end up changing course following the draft and playing major junior. By and large, the drain from college hockey is probably overblown, but it loses high-profile players each summer. Following the 2011 draft, the New York Rangers signed first-round pick J.T. Miller, leading to the forward playing for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers instead of at North Dakota, Schmaltz's intended destination. Goaltending prospect John Gibson, who had professed allegiance to the maize and blue of the Michigan Wolverines, was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks and then joined the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. The Dallas Stars spent their No. 14 overall pick on Jamie Oleksiak, who left Northeastern University to play junior.
Schmaltz counted 10 goals and 41 points in 55 USHL games this season, split between the Sioux Falls Stampede and Clark Cup-champion Green Bay Gamblers. The Spitfires have already shored up their defence with a stay-at-home defenceman by signing Patrick Sieloff of the U.S. under-18 team, who could sneak into the first round in the NHL draft on June 22-23. Schmaltz would provide a scoring element, although there's questions about intangibles.
"I'll have to work on him," Sieloff deadpanned when asked about trying to convince Schmaltz to follow him to Ontario.
The Spitfires have also drafted Jordan Schmaltz's 16-year-old brother, Nick Schmaltz, a promising forward from Chicago. However, Jordan Schmaltz is going into his age-19 season this fall, meaning he would likely only play one junior season rather than two. Oleksiak was at that stage last season. However, there was a coaching change at Northeastern that trigger the decision. Oleksiak is also a stay-at-home defender, whereas Schmaltz is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound offensive defenceman.
"Again, North Dakota's the place for me," the Madison, Wisc., native said. "I just don't think I'm NHL-ready right now, so I think it's that year or two or maybe even three to develop that's going to help me."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.