With the Stanley Cup Playoffs here and the Washington Capitals highly favored to win, there is no better time to highlight St. Cloud native Nate Schmidt’s road to success.

Schmidt, 24, spent four years playing hockey for Cathedral High School after Coach Eric Johnson brought him up in the eighth grade to play varsity. Johnson coached Schmidt through his junior year before he left to play junior hockey for the Fargo Force.

Johnson describes his former player as fun-loving and charismatic. He recalls knowing early in Schmidt’s high school career that he had the potential to play beyond high school.

Schmidt’s ability to reach such a high level of success came from being a tireless worker, Johnson said. “He worked really hard to try to correct it if he thought it would make him a better person, player, or athlete,” he said of Schmidt.

Schmidt shared his feelings of mutual admiration for Johnson in a 2009 interview for the Fargo Force Blog.

“Coach Johnson helped me with becoming the hockey player I am now, as well as helping me develop the personal character that I needed on and off the ice in order for me to succeed at the next level,” Schmidt told the blog reporter.

Schmidt was picked up by the University of Minnesota after a year with the Fargo Force.

University of Minnesota’s Associated Head Coach Mike Guentzel remembers being drawn to Schmidt’s hockey instincts.

He credits Schmidt’s evolution as a top hockey player to countless hours of hard work and training.

“He brought his fitness to another level. Brought his game up another level, was an All-American.” Guentzel said.

Such hard work and dedication may seem like a struggle to most but, “nobody enjoyed putting in that work and time more than Nate did,” Guentzel said.

After signing to Washington in April 2013, Schmidt played his first year with the Capitals American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Starting his 2013-14 season with the Bears, he was called up to the Capitals after just one game. He continued moving between the AHL and NHL until signing a one-way, two-year, contract with the Capitals in the summer of 2015.

The Capitals have had an exceptional season with their 56-18-8 overall record. With a total of 120 points for the season, the Capitals were able to clinch the President’s Trophy for the first time since 2009-2010. Thursday night they open the playoffs as the Metropolitan Division’s No. 1 seed taking on the Philadelphia Flyers.