The 2018 NHL Entry Draft began tonight in Dallas at the American Airlines Center with the first round.
The Devils, who picked first overall in 2017, had a much lower pick this year by virtue of their better finish in 2017-18 and their status as a playoff team. This year they were picking 17th overall.
The 17th pick has famously yielded at least one good player for the Devils. Zach Parise was taken 17th overall back in 2003. But this year, the Devils were looking to fill a different need.
This year they took left-handed shooting defenseman Ty Smith of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs. The 18-year-old, born on March 24, 2000, had 14 goals and 53 assists for 73 points in 69 games for Spokane last season. He is 5-feet, 10-inches tall (as the NBCSN announce crew pointed out, he was one of many under-six-foot d-men taken in this Draft so far) and 170-pounds.
Smith was ranked number 14 among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Department. Gerard Lionetti over at All About the Jersey quoted Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst by saying that Smith has “exceptional hockey sense and a strong desire to join the attack and create chances.” Kournianos mentioned that Smith is very mobile and has good vision on the ice. He also said that he can “transition quickly from defense to offense” and that he is “an effortless skater with strong balance and agility, and he can pivot with the best of them.”
Kournianos also said that you will “rarely see Smith get caught chasing his man or losing positioning, as he makes timely reads and anticipates exactly where the puck will end up.” To me, that almost sounds like a poor man’s John Carlson in a way. Or maybe more akin to a little more mobile version of what the Devils want Damon Severson to develop into. Kournianos also said that he “is a hard, accurate shooter and a pure power play quarterback who works the point with confidence and poise.” He said that Smith will evade “pressing penalty killers with ease and will exploit gaps with crisp, tape-to-tape cross-ice passes.”
Smith is also referred to as a “clean, reliable three-zone defender with leadership qualities and a team-first attitude.” That attitude is something that was pointed out by Kathryn Tappen of NBCSN, as she interviewed him following his being selected by the Devils, she made mention that that came up multiple times by those interviewed at the NHL Scouting Combine. Multiple people, she said, when asked who had the best team-first attitude, said Ty Smith. That, of course, is a great attitude to have coming in and something that is great if the player is mature already.
Lionetti also quoted Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers, who said that Smith learns from his mistakes and that last season he acquired two important traits: “experience and confidence.” Pike said that he is more confident “in terms of judging risk offensively and is much better at anitcipating trouble defensively. He still occasionally over-commits with the puck and has to scramble back to cover odd-man rushes, but those are fewer and much more far between than last season’s Smith saw.”
Now, learning to cover for your mistakes in juniors is a lot different than adapting to stuff at the NHL-level. Hopefully he has the tools to make it as an NHLer (and from the above analysis by Kournianos and Pike, it seems that he does). But it is good to see that he is able to work hard and recognize when he needs to fix things in his game.
With that, we wish Smith all of the best of luck as he begins his Devils career and hope to see him at rookie camp later this summer. We will have more coverage of the Devils’ later round picks tomorrow. Welcome to New Jersey, Ty Smith!