Schmaltz looking to take next step with Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL –  While the Chicago Blackhawks tumbled into last place last season, Nick Schmaltz showed off the flashy skills that made him a first-round pick in 2014.

Another step forward for the centre might have more to do with his mental approach than any improvement on the ice.

The 22-year-old Schmaltz is focused on consistency as he tries to make the transition from promising young player to elite NHL forward. His progress on that front could have a big impact on Chicago’s success after it missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“I think that just comes with maturity and knowing how to play that full 82-game season where you’re playing the same type of game every single night,” Schmaltz said Saturday after the Blackhawks’ annual training camp festival.

“That’s what the best players in the league do. It’s tough to do. It’s a grind. It’s a lot of mental preparation and work and making sure you’re taking care of yourself every day and come to work every day.”