NHL: Schmidt Nets First NHL Goal, Then Another

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In case you missed it, former Gopher All-American Nate Schmidt scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night in a 5-2 win for Washington over Nashville, and then the Capitals defenseman added his second lamp lighter on Sunday as Washington topped the New York Rangers 4-1. 

Here's Schmidt's first NHL goal: 

From the Washington post: 

"The first thing anyone notices about Schmidt is that he's always smiling. There's yet to be a practice, game or any other team activity where he hasn't had a grin on his face and his teammates are glad to see the rookie with a persistently sunny outlook get rewarded."

Schmidt's rise to the NHL is truly an impressive story. An undrafted defenseman, Schmidt tallied just one assist and played in just 13 games as a freshman at Minnesota in 2010-11 before developing into one of the program's leaders in his final two years with the Gophers (Schmidt played in every game of his sophomore and junior seasons). 

In 2011-12, Schmidt earned Second Team All-WCHA with 41 points in 43 games. His 38 assists that year were the most among NCAA defensemen while Schmidt also added three goals as the Gophers returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005. Perhaps his most memorable college goal helped the Gophers clinch  the 2012 MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions in a 2-1 win over Wisconsin in the season finale. 

In his final year with the program -- 2012-13 -- Schmidt earned Second Team All-America honors to join an elite group of Gopher defensemen under head coach Don Lucia and associate head coach Mike Guentzel that includes fellow NHL blue-liners Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin, Jordan Leopold (2002 Hobey Baker Award winner) and Keith Ballard. Schmidt tallied a career-best nine goals as a junior and ended the year with 32 points and 23 assists as the Gophers repeated as conference champions and went on to the program's 34th NCAA tournament. 

Schmidt signed an entry-level deal with Washington soon after last year's NCAA tournament and played the final eight regular-season games with the team's AHL affiliate -- the Hershey Bears -- registering four points (one goal, three assists). Schmidt added two assists in five AHL playoff games as well. 

The 2013-14 season saw Schmidt play in one game with the Bears (he registered a goal in the game) before being called up for his NHL debut with the Capitals. In 26 games this season, Schmidt has six points (two goals, four assists). Here's Schmidt's goal from Sunday: 

Schmidt is one of 15 former Gophers who have played in the NHL this season along with Keith Ballard (Minnesota), Nick Bjugstad (Florida), Alex Goligoski (Dallas), Erik Haula (Minnesota), Erik Johnson (Colorado), Phil Kessel (Toronto), Nick Leddy (Chicago), Jordan Leopold (St. Louis), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh), Aaron Ness (New York Islanders), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver), Thomas Vanek (New York Islanders) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg).

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