PHILADELPHIA — The Blackhawks moved up in the NHL draft and got the man they wanted when they selected center Nick Schmaltz with the 20th overall pick Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.
After acquiring picks No. 20 and 179 from the Sharks for Nos. 27 and 62, the Hawks nabbed Schmaltz, who led Green Bay of the USHL with 63 points in 55 games. The Verona, Wis., native grew up a Hawks fan and was thrilled the team took him.
"I couldn't be happier," said Schmaltz, who attended two Hawks postseason games this year. "I grew up a Blackhawks fan. Just to hear my name called was a true honor."
Schmaltz, who described himself as a "playmaking center," had 18 goals — including 11 power-play scores — and led paced Green Bay with 63 penalty minutes and 140 shots on goal.
"My game fits right into (the Hawks') style of play," Schmaltz said. "I think it was the best fit for me too."
Schmaltz will play at the University of North Dakota in the fall and said he could spend two or three years there. His brother, Jordan, is a prospect in the Blues' organization.
"We've been really following him starting last August, the first tournament of the year over in Slovakia," Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "He was probably the best player (there). We saw him available and we were calling around to see who might be willing to trade the pick to us and it worked out."
Selection Friday: The Panthers selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 overall pick. The 18-year-old led all blueliners in the Ontario Hockey League with 23 goals and 53 points. Center Sam Reinhart, whose father, Paul, was a defenseman with the Flames and Canucks in the 1980s, went to the Sabres with the second pick.
The draft will continue Saturday with Rounds 2-7.
Net change: The Hawks are in the market for a new goaltending coach after Steve Weeks was let go from the organization after just one season with the team.
Quenneville said it was his decision to fire Weeks, calling it a "tough situation."
There is no immediate timetable to find a replacement.
"If we can fill it sooner than later that's what we'll look to do but I don't think there's a timeline on it," Quenneville said. "It's tough to break it down exactly, the change. It's something we just wanted to do."
Q rating: Coach Joel Quenneville was pleased that the Hawks signed two-year contract extensions with forwards Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and goaltender Antti Raanta.
"I thought they all progressed this year," Quenneville said. "Antti coming over here (from Finland) proved he can play on our team in this league. Ben had an amazing year. He has gotten better, more quality ice time and took advantage of it. (Morin) can score, he competes hard, he has some pace to his game and he really progressed this year from his last couple of years."
Holding pattern: Veteran defenseman Sheldon Brookbank is waiting to hear from the Hawks on whether they plan to make an offer to bring the unrestricted free agent back next season. The 33-year-old had two goals and five assists in 48 games last season.
"We've talked about a lot of options," Bowman said of re-signing Brookbank and center Peter Regin —another veteran free agent. "I haven't ruled anything out at this point."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun