After selecting first overall and taking Nico Hischier last year, the New Jersey Devils arguably had a tougher task in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Their first round pick was set at seventeenth overall. Not only were they at the mercy of sixteen other teams in front of them, but those teams include several divisional opponents. With no picks in the second or third rounds this year, there likely was a temptation to pick up some picks later - possibly by moving back. But the Devils stood firm and benefited as a skilled defenseman expected to go in the top-15 picks became available. The New Jersey Devils selected Spokane defenseman Ty Smith.
Gerard wrote up a draft profile of Smith earlier this month. I suggest starting to learn more about Smith by reading that first. I will hit the highlights and cite some additional material.
Ty Smith is an offensive defenseman who played for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League last season. Per Elite Prospects, he’s a left-handed defenseman and is listed at 5’11” and 176 pounds. Gerard noted his 73 points in 69 games - I will add to that by noting that only David Quenneville out-scored him among all WHL defenseman in 2017-18. Smith was not just a big producer, he was one of the best in the whole league. His 194 shots ranked seventh among all WHL defenders too.
The guy was not just a compiler. His tools are consistent in what you want in a skilled defenseman. Let’s go to some additional opinions and profiles on Smith to show that off.
Ben Kerr at Last Word on Hockey Prospects (sorry to Ben Kerr for not picking up on the name change) profiled Smith and he had has nothing but good things to say about his skating, his stickhandling, his play in transition, his shot, and even his positioning. Kerr compares his style to Shayne Gostisbehere, who is definitely a skilled defender.
Over at Canucks Army, their crew had Smith eighth in their rankings. Jackson MacDonald went into full detail with more than enough statistics to justify that Smith is one of the best defensemen prospects in the whole draft. MacDonald notes that Smith had the highest point-per-game rate among draft-eligible defensemen in the WHL since 2006-07, surpassing Ivan Provorov’s 1.02 with his own 1.13. MacDonald notes that Smith was excellent at creating scoring chances and was more than effective in his own end of the rink.
At Sportsnet, Iain MacIntyre has this short profile on Smith that shows off more of his personality. But it does note how smart of a player he is and the quotes from the Spokane GM and coach confirm that he was an all-situations player. For someone who is not that big and not even 18 until March, that’s pretty big and it speaks a lot about Smith’s skillset.
Around SBN, just look at these profiles from other team sites. At Defending Big D, David Castillo summarized Smith as “an elite skater elite skater with soft hands, and IQ in all three zones with the ability to counterattack with his legs and vision.” At Broad Street Hockey, Kyle F. is so effusive in his praise that he saw him as a top ten pick. At The Cannon, Ryan Real states he’s a two-way defender who can do it all. At Winging it in Motown, ZeeDad88 looked at Smith and saw “a Top-4 pairing defenseman with high-end offensive upside.” It’s a whole lot of praise for a top end defenseman prospect.
Want to hear more about Ty Smith? Justin Froese of Future Considerations was interviewed by David Sarch in the most recent episode of Talking Red and they both talked about Smith. Again, it’s plenty of good things about the Spokane defender.
If there is a fault with Smith, then it is with his size. Smith is not that big. He is not that small, but he is listed at 5’11” and 176 pounds. He will need to get stronger. That I totally agree with. He may not become that much bigger, height-wise. But as speed, puck-handling, and being able to contribute at both ends of the rink have become points of emphasis in today’s game, I do not see the size as being that big of a problem. Maybe some may question whether Smith could be a first-pairing defenseman at 5’11”. I think the 5’11” Andy Greene has managed it for years (maybe not lately) and I think the 5’10” Will Butcher may be fine with receiving more than just favorable situations going forward. I am not concerned about Smith’s frame. Especially with his skating, his intelligence, and his play on and off the puck.
I agree with Gerard’s conclusion from his profile of Smith. He fits the team’s needs, style and desires. You want fast, attacking, and supportive? Smith was the best among draft eligible prospect defensemen in his league at attacking; he supported Spokane in all situations; and his skating is quite good from all accounts. You wanted a defenseman? Smith is a left-handed defender who has all of the skills you would want in a defenseman in this day and age. While the Devils have offensively-minded defenders in their system, none come with the pedigree that Smith has.
Ahead of every NHL Entry Draft that I followed as a fan, I like to prepare by reading up on potential prospects and reading mock drafts and rankings to get a sense on who could be available. Every draft, I am surprised at who gets taken ahead of expectations and who falls. This year, Ty Smith was one of the fallers. I did not expect him to fall all the way to 17th. But I also did not expect Barret Hayton to go fifth overall, Vitaly Kravtsov to go ninth, and Ty Dellandra to go thirteenth. Both Smith and Joe Veleno fell right to the 17th pick and I was hoping that Ray Shero and his crew would run to the podium to take one of them. I was happily surprised that they were available. I am happy that the Devils took Ty Smith; I am a huge fan of this selection.
That’s my opinion this selection. Now I want to know what you think. What do you think of Ty Smith? What about his game do you like the most? Do you like the selection? Please vote in our quick poll (votes to be summarized in a later post) and leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Ty Smith 17th overall! What do you think about the pick?
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