Tue 2 Apr 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – All-America candidate and Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt has signed a two-year entry level contract with the Washington Capitals, the National Hockey League (NHL) team announced on Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience at the University of Minnesota for anything, and I am incredibly grateful to the team and staff for three great seasons at the ‘U,’ Schmidt said. “This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it is the right decision, and I am looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my playing career.”
In 96 career games at Minnesota, Schmidt tallied 74 points and 12 goals as a two-time All-WCHA defenseman. In his final two seasons with the program, Schmidt and the Gophers won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champions and made two trips to the NCAA tournament including the team’s run to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2011-12.
“Nate is a great example of someone who was overlooked in the draft but worked hard on and off the ice to put himself in great position to become our top defenseman the last two years. He had two tremendous years and felt he was ready to take his game to the next level,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “He has a great opportunity with Washington and I want to wish him the best as he turns pro and thank him for his contributions to Gopher hockey.”
After appearing in 13 games split between forward and defense in 2010-11, Schmidt posted a breakout season in 2011-12 with a career-high 41 points. The All-WCHA Second Team selection led NCAA defensemen and finished third overall in the nation with 38 assists (the sixth most assists in a season by a Gophers defenseman) as Minnesota captured its first WCHA regular-season title since 2006-07. The defenseman’s final goal of the season – a power-play blast that proved to be the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin – clinched the MacNaughton Cup for Minnesota in the regular-season finale. The Gophers’ run continued in the postseason as the Gophers advanced to the Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005.
In what would be his final season with the Maroon and Gold, Schmidt developed into arguably Minnesota’s most valuable player in 2012-13. As a junior, the St. Cloud, Minn., native saw the ice in nearly every situation for the Gophers. In addition to backing the WCHA’s top defense, Schmidt quarterbacked the country’s top power-play unit and continued to contribute offensively with the top scoring program in the NCAA as Minnesota picked up a share of its second-straight MacNaughton Cup. Schmidt also saw time on the WCHA’s top penalty kill as the Gophers were ranked in the top 10 nationally in all four facets of the game.
Schmidt was named to the All-WCHA First Team in 2012-13 after leading the league in scoring by a defenseman. Schmidt currently ranks tied for third among all NCAA defensemen with 32 points this season including a career high nine goals. Schmidt also leads national defensemen and ranks tied for sixth among all skaters with 19 power-play points this season. Schmidt finished the year with a plus-15 rating.