The Capitals have signed free agent Nate Schmidt, a defenseman from the University of Minnesota, to a two-year deal.
From the team:
The Washington Capitals have signed free agent defenseman Nate Schmidt to a two-year, entry-level contract beginning this season, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.
The 6’, 195-pound defenseman spent this season with the University of Minnesota, registering 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) and 16 penalty minutes in 40 games. Schmidt was named to the All-WCHA First Team after leading the league in scoring by a defenseman. Schmidt finished the season ranked tied for third among all NCAA defensemen with 32 points including a career-high nine goals. Schmidt also led all collegiate defensemen and ranked tied for sixth among all skaters with 19 power-play points this season. Schmidt finished the year with a plus-15 rating.
In 96 career games at Minnesota, Schmidt tallied 74 points (12 goals, 62 assists) 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.
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)
Schmidt participated in the 2012 Washington Capitals Development Camp as a tryout. He will participate in the Capitals practice on Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Schmidt's breakout season came after a summer of intense and specific conditioning, as profiled by college hockey guru (and former Caps' PR guru) Nate Ewell last year:
"It took the whole summer – really it almost took two years – but I feel better about my weight and my strength," he said. "I knew that work would translate to the ice."
The difference was noticeable from the first practice this fall.
"When we first got on the ice with [Assistant Coach Mike] Guentzel, I felt good," Schmidt said. "I felt confident, I felt like I had my style of game back for the first time since playing in the USHL in Fargo. I had to prove to myself that I could do that again."
Not only did he prove it to himself and his teammates, but Schmidt earned big minutes from the coaches and has put up big numbers. He mans the point on the Gopher power play, setting up high scoring Nick Bjugstad with perfect passes.
Schmidt was one of this year's top free agent prospects, and according to Hockey Prospectus "instantly becomes the top young defense prospect in the Capitals organization".
The signing now gives the Caps eleven defensemen on the roster... with the trade deadline just about 24 hours away. Stay tuned.