Given some of the other, higher-drafted names on the Team USA roster, Ty Smilanic may have fallen through the cracks. For those who don’t know much about him, he’s been making a name for himself at Quinnipiac University over the past two seasons.
He’s the second-youngest player on the Bobcats, and he’s been one of their best contributors over the past two seasons. If he’s able to fit into the right role, he should find some personal success, and help the Americans push for a medal, let alone potentially repeat as champions.
Smilanic off to a Strong Start for NCAA’s Quinnipiac Bobcats
Smilanic has started his sophomore season with Quinnipiac much like he ended his freshman year: as one of the top producers on the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. He finished last season tied for the team lead with 14 goals, and was fourth on the team with 21 points in 29 games.
So far this season, the 19-year-old sits fifth on the Bobcats with 13 points, and is again tied for team lead with eight goals in 18 games. His two power-play goals are tied for team lead, and his 51 shots are second on the team.
Through seven Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) games, he is again tied for team lead with four goals and his six points are second in team scoring. He really does love to shoot, the 20 shots are second highest on the Bobcats, which comes out to averaging just under three shots a game.
Smilanic has yet to go more than two games straight without a point, and has tallied at least two shots in all but four games this season. That consistency will benefit Team USA, especially if he slots into more of a bottom-six or depth role in the lineup.
He’s a bigger body with a good reach, and can be relied upon on both ends of the ice. According to his THW 2020 Draft Profile, he is very disciplined in his positioning. “You can see he doesn’t sell out and knows how to shift on the fly, which the NHL scouts value highly.” Fair analysis considering he was drafted by the Florida Panthers, 74th overall in 2020.
Smilanic Has Limited International Experience, Should Be Excited For the Opportunity
Smilanic has played in several World Selects Invitationals while growing up, and the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. However, in terms of the “grand stage,” he doesn’t have much experience. This will be his first World Junior Championship appearance.
His prior experience representing his country came in the 2018-19 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He scored two goals and added an assist in five games.
How Smilanic Fits With Team USA
According to a tweet from Jon Morosi with the lines from Team USA’s pre-tournament game, we may already have a picture of how their lineup is going to shape up. If that’s the case, it could make for a very interesting bottom-six opportunity for Smilanic if they can find the right combination.
While he’s listed as fourth-line wing, pairing him with the extra skaters Red Savage and Sasha Pastujov could make for an interesting combination. Savage has been described as a “defensive powerhouse,” who could potentially see penalty-killing time. Pastujov already has 20 goals in 26 games in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the Guelph Storm.
Pairing Smilanic with those two could make for a strong defensive line, that is also dangerous in the offensive zone. While Savage (Detroit Red Wings prospect) will be the guy defensively, and Pastujov (Anaheim Ducks prospect) the sniper, Smilanic can use his two-way play to benefit the group in both ends of the ice.
Naturally, he’s excited to have the opportunity. No matter the role given, he’s going to be an asset and eager to do whatever he has to for the team to succeed. Whether he’s defending with Savage, dishing to Pastujov or ripping it himself, this line could become a Swiss Army knife for the Americans if head coach Nate Leaman puts them together.
He may not necessarily see special teams time, maybe catching a few shifts with the second power-play unit. Yet, if he can click with a line, such as the one above, at even strength, it could be a huge asset to Team USA throughout the tournament.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.