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Ty Smilanic: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Forward with Round 1 Talent But a Down Draft Year

Today in our continuing prospect coverage, we have American forward Ty Smilanic. He has first round talent, but an injury-plagued draft year is probably dropping him into round 2.

2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament - USA vs Slovakia Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Today, in our continuing coverage of top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft here at All About the Jersey, we have Denver, Colorado native and forward Ty Smilanic. Smilanic has experience playing both left wing and center while coming up through the US National Team Development Program. Heading to the NCAA in the fall with his commitment to Quinnipiac (after initially committing to his hometown University of Denver before switching), Ty stands to do well there. However, some see him as a potential flight risk to Canadian juniors if the NHL team that drafts him wants him to go that route. If that were the case, his rights are owned by Regina in the WHL.

Standing 6’1 and weighing 177 pounds, he could stand to put on a little bit of weight, especially since he will be playing against juniors and seniors who are much bigger and more developed than he is, but given his 6’1 frame, he has that ability. Thanks to an injury-riddled draft year, his rankings are fairly varied, from a mid-later first rounder to the late second round. Let’s check out who he is and his game.

Who is Ty Smilanic?


Ty has spent the last two seasons with the USNTDP, playing both for their squad in the USHL and developmentally. His more impressive year, numbers-wise, came in 2017-18, when he was fully healthy. Playing 33 games in the USHL, he produced 17 points, essentially a half point per game. As a 16/17 year old, that is not bad. Further, for the U17 team in the development program, he was better, with 38 points in 54 games. Considering he was playing with players his age, it makes sense to see better numbers there, and while it wasn’t at that coveted point per game mark, hitting 0.7 points per game is good.

This year, as I mentioned, he did not have much playing time, due to multiple issues. He had mono, which sidelined him for six weeks, and also had a high ankle sprain and a broken finger at other times. Because of this, between the USHL and the development program, he only played in 46 games total, whereas the year prior he played in 88 between those two. That, of course, is a huge difference, and has had an impact on his draft status. Some people also think that he was playing injured in some, if not many of those games as well, in order to try and get some live game tape in for his draft eligible season. Due to that, his numbers from this past season are not the major increases you would want to see over the year prior. In the USHL, he managed 9 points in 12 games which is quality, for sure, but with a small sample size, that 0.75 points per game number doesn’t really hold too much weight. Then, in development with the U18 team, he had 22 points in 34 games. That’s around 0.65 points per game, not quite the 0.7 he put up the year prior in U17. Again, these relatively weaker numbers, thanks to injuries and mono, have hurt his draft stock, but the talent is there, so it will be interesting to see where he gets taken.

Finally, he did play internationally in 2018 in the World Hockey Championships in U17. In 5 games, he had 3 points, 2 goals and an assist. Not a bad showing at all, but the sample size is just so small that there will be questions for sure.

Where is Smilanic Ranked?

Central Scouting, in their final rankings, has Ty as the #24 ranked North American skater. He was at #18 at the midterms, but of course, with the injuries, it dropped, although not a crazy amount.

-Future Considerations is one of those who are lower on Ty, ranking him #50 overall.

-The Draft Analyst is in similar agreement, having him ranked #44.

-The Hockey Writers, in May rankings, has him ranked #59 overall.

-Draft Site, which has a mock draft that will continually be updated until the draft, currently has him mocked to go at pick #49 to Nashville.

-TSN’s Craig Button has him at #62 overall, last pick of the second round.

-His colleague Bob McKenzie, on the other hand, has Ty as a first rounder, ranked #25 overall.

-ISS has him ranked #19 overall, the highest ranking you will probably see.

-Finally, Dobber Prospects, in April rankings, has him at #43.

What Others Have Said About Smilanic

The Last Word on Hockey has a scouting report on Smilanic that came out a couple of weeks ago. Here are some clips about what they have to say about different aspects of his game:

Skating: “Smilanic is an excellent skater. He has very good top-end speed and excellent acceleration. Combined with a good first step, he is able to win a lot of races to loose pucks, or to change speeds on the rush”

Offensive Game: “Smilanic combines his strong skating with good puckhandling skills...He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. It is powerful and accurate and his quick hands can change the angle just before shooting...He has good vision and can find a teammate for a scoring chance.”

Defensive Game: “He provides effective backpressure, supporting the defence against the rush. He also works hard down low, helping them in the cycle game. Smilanic is good positionally.”

Projection and Comparison: “Despite all these skills, there is still something lacking in his production...If he can turn the offensive tools into more production, its easy to see a top-six forward with plenty of energy and the responsible two-way game that coaches will love. He’s a pretty safe pick though, as even if the offence never explodes he should be able to play a third or fourth line role going forward.”

The Hockey Writers also have a profile on Ty from this month. The whole thing is worth reading, but I like this paragraph about him:

“Although he has been described by the director of central scouting as an attacking forward, he has a tendency for lurking like Ilya Kovalchuk. Another feature of his game is his disciplined positioning. You can see he doesn’t sell out and knows how to shift on the fly, which the NHL scouts value highly. He displays a very mature game overall and has expressed a desire to be a wholesome player at both ends. Being a Colorado native, Smilanic looks to the game of Nathan MacKinnon for inspiration but exhibits the flare of former Philadelphia Flyer, Jeff Carter. If his hands catch up with his feet, perhaps he can one day score like him.”

Dobber Prospects, in their profile page of him, has a paragraph summary of his game back from October, before he missed significant time this year. Here it is:

“Smilanic is a goal-scorer. Simple as that. He has a deadly shot. Whether it’s a one-time bomb or a lightning-quick snap shot. He locates his shot well and changes his shot angle with curls and drags thrown into his shooting motion. His playmaking goes unheralded because he generally doesn’t refrain from shooting the puck but when he sees a teammate in a prime scoring area, he is able to showcase his crisp passing and excellent puck skills. He isn’t going to develop into a Selke Trophy candidate but he does a decent job defensively. He is a fairly average defensive center overall. He is in passing lanes and he skates well which helps him stay in front of defenders at the blue line, often forcing passes. He doesn’t excel in any area in his own end but also doesn’t seem to struggle in any great capacity. Smilanic is a dependable sniper who can hold his own in the possession department.“

A Little Video

There are almost no videos of Ty on YouTube that showcase his highlights. This is the best one I can find, and it is highlights from the WHC tournament he played in for Team USA in 2018. He had two goals, one you can see starting at 43 seconds in, and the other at 2:30.

Here is a goal from November 2018 in the USHL against Chicago.

My Take

I happen to really like what I have seen and read about Smilanic during my research. He is the type of player I want to toss the dice on. Had he been able to put in a full, healthy season this year, he might have been ranked much higher, and might have been a consensus first rounder. However, as it is now, despite some still ranking him in round 1, he is more likely to go in round 2. If I can get someone with round 1 talent in round 2, I want that.

And beyond that, what makes him a potential round 1 talent is great. I love that he can play both center and left wing, having that versatility is crucial. I love that he thinks a 200 foot game, and while he might not be like Travis Zajac defensively, he is willing to put in the effort in the back end, and that pays off, especially on a team like New Jersey. But to go with that, he is wicked offensively, with a great shot, great vision, and good skating abilities.

And beyond that, what kept him out for a lot of this season is not something you worry about coming back. Having mono is a big deal, and that can cost someone a couple months or more. However, it is a freak thing, not indicative of some “injury bug.” Yes, he also had a high ankle sprain, but the broken finger is also a freak thing. So really, of the three things that kept him out this season and suppressed his point totals, only the high ankle sprain is the one to worry about, and I am not really worried.

Of course, like with many players we have profiled over the last few weeks, Smilanic doesn’t fit into any spot where the New Jersey Devils might be picking unless they trade. ISS has Ty ranked #19 overall, and the Devils could be around there with one of their 3 first rounders, but that is most likely a reach regardless. There could be a team that pulls the trigger on him near the end of round 1, around 30 maybe, but I don’t think he goes until round 2, more like after pick 40. The Devils are not there, and I don’t think they get there. I profiled another forward last week, Kasper Simontaival, who is in a similar spot. And last week, I said that if somehow the Devils trade back and have a pick there, mid-2nd, I would be fine with Kasper. However, after this week, if I had to choose between the two, I am absolutely choosing Ty Smilanic.

Your Take

Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Ty Smilanic? Does this injury-riddled year scare you away, or are you intrigued by potential round 1 talent falling because of a down year? How much do you think his injuries cost him on draft day? Where do you think is a good spot for him to go, and if the Devils were around that spot, you would want them to take him? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!