One of the Capitals’ promising blueliners is celebrating his 24th birthday today. Nate Schmidt will likely be part of the Caps’ third defense-pairing next season and recently signed a two-year contract extension to remain in a red sweater for the foreseeable future! A favorite in the locker room, Schmidt’s road to the NHL was rocky, as he was signed by the Caps as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota. Last season, after playing a career-high 39 NHL games, Nate was sent to the Hershey Bears to get some playing time; as he had been a healthy scratch for consecutive games in place of Jack Hillen. In one of his first games with the Bears, Schmidt was knocked into the endboards, fracturing his shoulder-blade in the process. His recovery was estimated around 6-8 weeks.
It was shortly after he was injured that my family and I traveled to Hershey from Fredericksburg VA to see the Bears play the Albany Devils. We checked in to our hotel, and at the time I was wearing my Capitals hat. We were entering the elevator when two men stepped off, one who looked familiar. When he looked at my hat and said hello, I realized it was Schmidt. My dad and I, after confirming it was indeed him, spent 15 minutes or so conversing with Nate and his dad; who had made the trip from Nate’s hometown of St. Cloud, MN to stay with Nate. We thanked them for talking and I happened to run into them again on the elevator the night of the Bears game. When the Caps recalled Nate for a game against the Boston Bruins, I was very excited! And to add to it, Nate scored his first goal of the year that night! All-in-all, it was a great experience that made me Nate’s biggest fan! I hope that I get the chance to talk to Nate at a practice at some point this season!
So here’s wishing Nate Schmidt a very-happy 24th birthday and a successful (and healthy!) year with the Caps!