Heading into last season's game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, former Cathedral standout and current Washington Capital's defenseman Nate Schmidt wasn't sure if he would even crack the lineup.

What a difference a year makes.

Schmidt was shuttled back and forth between the Caps and the AHL's Hershey Bears during his first two seasons as a professional, playing in 29 games at the NHL level in 2013-14 and 39 in 2014-15.

Before this season, Schmidt was rewarded for his perseverance with a two year, $1.62 million contract to play full time for the Capitals. So far, the faith the organization has shown in Schmidt has paid off.

The 24-year old St. Cloud native has average the seventh-most minutes per game with Washington (19:16), and has played in a career-high 48 games while registering 12 points.

Schmidt said it is always fun to come back home.

"It's always great to come back home and be able to play in front of friends and family who have supported me throughout the whole journey," Schmidt said Thursday after his team's 4-3 win over the Wild. "It's also a lot of fun to be on a team that's playing really well this season."

Schmidt says that the Capitals are playing great hockey top-to-bottom, anchored by goalie Braden Holtby.

"Our goaltender is very elite, which helps, and he can steal games for us," Schmidt said. "We've got such a skilled group of forwards up front, which helps too."

In our video interview, Schmidt talks about his turn as Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," playing for coach Eric Johnson and memories of high school hockey.

Ashli Gerdes