Devils’ defensive prospect Ty Smith did a Q & A session with Randy Miller of NJ.com that appeared on the site this morning.
Miller noted that Smith, who was taken by the Devils in the first round in the 2018 Draft, is just 20-years-old and that we could be seeing him quarterbacking the “power play in the near future.”
Miller also made mention of Smith being the final cut by the Devils in the last two training camps. He then returned to the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League both years and won “the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the Western Hockey League’s top blueliner.”
He did this largely by notching “233 points over 238 games over four junior seasons, including 19 goals and 59 points in 49 games this season with a plus-49 plus-minus rating while wearing the C” for Spokane. Miller also talks about his “standout” performance while serving as an “assistant captain for Canada’s goal [sic]-medal winning team at the 2020 World Junior Championships.”
In the article, TSN scouting director Craig Button is quoted as saying: “I’ve watched Ty for a long time and one of the big things here is TY is massively curious about how to get better and he always has been. It doesn’t matter how much you want to teach. He’s had a great mentor in his dad and coaches growing up, and Ty is an exceptionally smart player.”
Button talked about Smith’s perceived lack of size by saying: “Ty is never going to overwhelm you physically, but he gets into a spot where he can use his quickness and his hands, strip you of the puck, and then use his skating ability to get away and then to move it into other advantageous areas for his team. He gets into your space, and he gets in before you can engage with him. He reads the play exceptionally well.”
Button did tell Miller that “the biggest thing that Ty needs is physical maturity, and once he gets stronger there’s no question in my mind that he’s going to become a very, very important player for the New Jersey Devils.”
Following this scouting report, Miller gets into the Q & A with Smith. He began by asking Smith if Smith was “feeling any pressure” by being a first round pick “who is wearing a top prospect label?” Smith responded by saying that in previous Drafts, players get picked in the first round and then “never play an NHL game” and this motivates him to continue working hard and getting better “because there’s always someone out there that’s bigger, stronger, faster and better than you.”
Miller then went straight to the question most fans have been asking for the past two years, if Smith thought he was “NHL ready?” Smith gave a similar answer to his last question by saying that he was “trying to get better every day to try to make the team next year.” He said that he wants to “make an impact” when he is here as well.
Miller’s next question focused on Smith’s size. He said that scouts say “you’re getting better and better as you get stronger” but does mention that Smith is listed as 5-feet 11-inches tall and 179 pounds. Miller says asked if Smith was putting on weight and adding muscle as one of his “immediate priorities?” Smith said that it is because in the NHL, he’d be playing against “full-grown men who are big and strong, and they hit hard. So being able to absorb their hits or avoid them is definitely a skill.”
Smith said that he has “watched smaller guys who are good at positioning themselves, and I’m trying to learn from that to help myself develop. I think I’m continuing to get better as a player every day.”
Miller next asked how Smith developed his exceptional skating ability. Smith said that he “started skating when [he] was 2 and [he] was a little bit naturally gifted.” When he started playing hockey, he spent lots of time on “an outdoor rink with [his] dad.” He credited his dad with pushing him to get better in that skill and said that when he got older, he did take power skating lessons. He said that when he was playing “growing up, skating was always [his] No. 1 priority and focus.”
Miller next went to Smith’s eight-point (three goals and five assists) night against the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL on February 28 and asked him about that. Smith was humble about it, saying “I definitely got bounces.” He said his “dad drove 13 hours by himself from Saskatoon to Spokane that day. He took off work from the advertising sign company that he owns and left early in the morning just for two weekend games.” He then went into family history saying his “parents split up when [he] was 10, so [his dad] drove out to Spokane by himself a decent amount.” That night was also his dad’s 50th birthday and Ty was happy to be playing for him that night. Ty said that he was happy to score a goal for him and then he scored his first career hat trick with his dad in attendance and that was the icing on the cake.
Smith’s dad came up again in the answer to the next question about who Smith had as his “childhood hockey hero.” Miller assumed it was an Edmonton Oiler (Smith is from “Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, which is about 150 miles southeast of Edmonton, Alberta”) or a “great-skating” offensive “star defenseman such as Erik Karlsson.”
But Smith’s answer was that his only hockey hero was his dad. He watched “him play senior hockey, and he taught me a lot. He’d always come out and shoot pucks with me and stickhandle with me in the garage. He’d help me do my push-ups and sit-ups. We skated at the outdoor rink. He’s done a lot for me. He’s been somebody I’ve always looked up to. He knows a lot about the game, so I was pretty fortunate that I could watch hockey with him at the rink or at home on TV. He’d teach me little things that I don’t think a lot of kids my age was looking for.”
Smith continued on saying that if he watched a certain NHL player – he said he tended to gravitate to offensive defensemen – he and his dad would watch that player “on TV and we’d talk about things that he was doing.” Smith said that he owed his good hockey sense to his dad teaching them things as they’d watch hockey when he was younger.
The final question Miller asked was whether Ty’s father taught him his leadership qualities to end up the Chiefs’ captain this past season. Smith said that his dad “was hard on me about being a good leader and helping out the other guys. His big thing was the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. If there was a player that was struggling,” his dad wanted to play the kid and not bench him. He’d tell Ty: “We’re going to play him with you and you’re going to help him be better.”
Overall, it was a pretty insightful interview into how Ty Smith is thinking. It’s almost a running joke that NHL players look up to their dads and idolize them, but Smith seems to have learned a lot from his father both on and off the ice. Always good to see and it just makes you want to see him make the team more this November when training camps get underway.