Report: Blackhawks’ top prospect Schmaltz leaves NCAA, signs entry-level deal

Jared Clinton
Nick Schmaltz (Elsa/Getty Images)

The key to a successful off-season for Chicago GM Stan Bowman is finding cheap, effective talent to keep the Blackhawks as competitive as they have been over the past several seasons in the Central Division. And it seems Bowman has started his summer by bringing in one of the Blackhawks’ top prospects.

The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine reported Sunday that 20-year-old center Nick Schmaltz has inked a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks, choosing to forego a third season at University of North Dakota and instead join the pro ranks. In THN’s Future Watch 2016, a panel of scouts ranked Schmaltz as Chicago’s best prospect, and 26th-best in the league, and his performance in the NCAA makes it clear why.

This past season, Schmaltz appeared in 37 games for the UND Fighting Hawks, scoring 11 goals and 46 points. He was a key part of UND’s top line, alongside Drake Caggiula and Brock Boeser, and Schmaltz scored one goal and four points in four games during UND’s Frozen Four national title victory. That’s not to mention his two-goal, eight-point World Junior Championship performance for Team USA. Read more

Michigan State legend Ron Mason passes away at 76

Ryan Kennedy
Coach Ron Mason (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Ron Mason, the legendary former coach of the Michigan State Spartans, has passed away at the age of 76.

Mason won 924 games behind the bench at Michigan State, Bowling Green and Lake Superior State. He guided the Spartans to the national championship in 1986 and again as athletic director in 2007. But his impact on college hockey went well beyond wins.

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Best hockey city in the USA? That honor belongs to Detroit, study says

Jared Clinton
A young fan holds up a sign sitting between his parents at his first Red Wings game (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Minnesota may call itself the State of Hockey, but when it comes to the best hockey town,a recent study says ‘Hockeytown’ still reigns supreme.

According to WalletHub’s 17-metric study, Detroit is the best city to live in for “hockey enthusiasts.” The metrics include number of teams, performance, Stanley Cups, division titles, fan engagement, popularity and attendance, but it wasn’t limited to the NHL. But before you go thinking this was a ranking of NHL towns, consider that the study also included NCAA Div. I programs to help find which hockey cities were really the best.

So while it was the Red Wings’ success and fan engagement that helped put Detroit atop the 72-city list, the lack of NCAA action in the city ended up hurting the city’s margin of victory. Yes, the University of Michigan and Michigan State are nearby, but they’re not technically in Detroit. Thus, they were given their own ranking.

Because of this, WalletHub’s study only saw Detroit narrowly defeat Boston for the title by less than three-quarters of a point. That’s because Boston has great local college programs that offer fans with another way to watch the game. Read more

Prospect of the Year: meet the best for all 30 NHL teams

Ryan Kennedy
Brock Boeser (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s about that time, folks. The Memorial Cup field has been set, the AHL is into the conference finals and the NCAA champs were crowned long ago. So which players repped their franchises the best? The following list is made up of the prospects I believe had the best seasons for their parent franchises.

These are not necessarily the most NHL-ready players or the top prospects in the organizational pecking order, but these guys had the most success overall (but yeah, a lot of the top guys are here anyway). Factors include individual stats and growth, plus team success – so don’t be surprised to find some North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Brandon Wheat Kings on the list. One more note: any player who is Calder-eligible for the current NHL season does not count – that means no Frankie Vatrano for Boston or Connor Hellebuyck for Winnipeg, as examples.

Let’s get to it:

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Update: Prized NCAA free agent Caggiula signs two-year, entry-level deal with Oilers

Jared Clinton
Drake Caggiula celebrates with Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers may not have won the draft lottery, but it appears they’ve won the sweepstakes for top NCAA free agent Drake Caggiula.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Friday evening that Caggiula, 21, will be signing with Edmonton after a weeks-long process that saw him visit more than half a dozen teams in determining where he would sign his entry-level deal. Throughout much of Friday, it was reported both the Oilers and Canucks were close to signing the University of North Dakota product, but McKenzie stated that Vancouver was told they wouldn’t land Caggiula shortly before he chose Edmonton.

In signing Caggiula, the Oilers land one of the NCAA’s top scorers from the 2015-16 campaign. Caggiula scored 25 goals and 51 points for North Dakota this past season, and 62 goals and 127 points in 162 career games in the NCAA. He was especially impressive in the Frozen Four tournament this season, though. Caggiula scored six goals and seven points in North Dakota’s four victories, including two goals in the final as UND won its first national title since 2000, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Read more

Canucks prospect Boeser taking student with Down syndrome to her prom

Jared Clinton
Brock Boeser (Elsa/Getty Images)

Baylee Bjorge is a big fan of Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser and the University of North Dakota’s hockey teams, so much so that she created a Twitter account with one of the sole purposes being to ask Boeser to attend prom with her.

However, according to the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Elliott Schlossman, when Boeser went to reply and tell Bjorge, who was born with Down syndrome, he would accept the invitation, the UND star couldn’t respond because the account had been deactivated. Bjorge’s mother, Katie Marcotte, told Schlossman that she had shut down her daughter’s account because she doesn’t like Bjorge using social media.

But Boeser wasn’t about to give up on being Bjorge’s date to the prom. According to Schlossman, Boeser found a way to get Marcotte’s number and sent her a message asking if he could take her daughter to prom. Read more

Prospect Need to Know: Wade Allison is burning up the draft charts

Wade Allison (Photo courtesy of the Tri-City Storm)

As the season begins to wind down, we’re starting to see some hardware handed out in the prospect ranks. Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Mitch Marner, for example, just won the OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player for his work with the London Knights. Another OHL award-winner is featured below in my weekly wrap-up. Elsewhere in the hockey world, the USHL is in the middle of its two-stage draft. During Phase 1 (for 2000 birthdays), Sioux Falls landed competitive center Gavin Hain with the No. 1 pick. Phase 2 (for 1999s and earlier) happened today. And speaking of the USHL, let’s get to this week’s round-up:

 

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Amanda Kessel signs with NWHL’s New York Riveters

Daniel Nugent-Bowman
DURHAM, NH - MARCH 20: Amanda Kessel #8 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers raises the championship trophy after winning the 2016 NCAA Division I Women's Hockey Frozen Four Championship against the Boston College Eagles at the Whittemore Center Arena on March 20, 2016 in Durham, New Hampshire. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Retirement from hockey seemed likely for Amanda Kessel after battling concussions for the better part of two seasons. But a surprise return to action in February has now sparked a pro career.

Kessel, the younger sister of Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Phil Kessel, signed a one-year, $26,000 contract with the NWHL’s New York Riveters, the team announced Sunday. The deal is for the 2016-17 season.

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