By David Burstyn
It’s been a tale of two seasons for a pair of Wolves.
Nicholas Baptiste began his second campaign in the Nickel City by reinventing himself in the second half and playing with more urgency offensively. The results were favourable for the former sixth-overall priority selection pick, and Baptiste set career-highs in goals (21), assists (27) and points with 48.
Baptiste’s second half resurgence didn’t, however, include an upgrade in terms of physical play, one area that could still be improved.
One of his newest teammates, Matt Schmalz, joined the Wolves mid-season following a massive trade with the Kitchener Rangers. Schmalz, the 17th pick in the 2012 priority selection, brought size and some offence to his new team, though his physical game is still largely dormant at this time.
Nicholas Baptiste (RW, 2013), Sudbury
Baptiste has been able to salvage his season in the second half by playing with far more offensive consistency .. a strong, powerful skater who is not overly graceful or fluid, yet pumps his feet hard and digs his edges into the ice .. not an overly-creative player, he can be a bit of a puck chaser in the offensive zone but when given a chance to set up below the dots, he usually makes a strong play .. can use and shift his body to get an inside track on a defender inching his way closer to the net and always has his head up to survey a play .. still needs to move his feet as he can lose focus when a play has shifted the other direction .. could make himself more serviceable by applying himself more physically and by going hard to the net and maintaining position .. lacks offensive hockey sense, which will hinder his chances playing in a top-six role .. his size, skating ability and propensity to keeping the game simple will earn him recognition as a player who is low-maintenance and can play in the bottom portion of your depth chart.
Matt Schmalz (LW, 2014), Sudbury
Acquired in the blockbuster trade with Kitchener that saw team captain Frankie Corrado and Josh Leivo sent the other way .. an extremely agile player for his size .. at 6’6, Schmaltz can make a series of quick moves due to his lightning quick hands .. can easily gain the line, yet he tends to slow down with the puck in his possession .. he does exhibit poise with the puck, however, at times his decision-making and hockey sense comes into question with some of the plays that he makes — this can be chalked up to inexperience since he didn’t play much in his first 25 games with the Rangers .. nonetheless, has been a healthy shot in the arm for the Wolves, producing at a modest clip since joining the team .. often being partnered with the Dominik’s, first-year European players Kubalik and Kahun .. has a long, effortless stride and has deceptive speed in the straight away .. his cross-overs need some work as he tends to lose momentum .. Schmalz’s biggest set-back is his lack of push back since he doesn’t play up to his size .. he is more of a finesse player whose style compares to that of another former Wolf, Taylor Pyatt.