When the 2016 World Junior Championships begin later this week in Helsinki, the Chicago Blackhawks will be represented on Team USA as Nick Schmaltz will don the red, white, and blue.
Schmaltz, whom the Blackhawks selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, currently plays hockey at the University of North Dakota (the same school where Jonathan Toews played), and he’s having a phenomenal season.
The Wisconsin native has three goals and 23 assists in 20 games for UND this season, and there has already been plenty of speculation that he will sign an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks once his collegiate season is complete.
While Schmaltz will be the only Blackhawks prospect on the ice for Team USA in the tournament, he will not be the only person with local connections participating. Forward Christian Dvorak, a Frankfort, Illinois native that was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, will be on the ice for Team USA, as will Skokie product (and Minnesota Wild prospect) Louie Belpedio, who will man the blue line for the team.
The coaching staff will also have some local flavor to it, as Chicago-product Chris Chelios will serve as an assistant coach under Ron Wilson when the team takes the ice.
Team USA’s first game will take place on Saturday when they battle Canada in Helsinki. All U.S. games will be aired on NHL Network, and Saturday’s game will feature a puck drop at noon Central time.