2017-18 Team: Spokane Chiefs (#24)
Date of Birth: March 24, 2000
Place of Birth: Lloydminster, Alberta
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 200 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2018 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): 12th (final)
- Future Considerations: 9th (final)
- ISS: 19th (final)
- Bob McKenzie: 13th (final)
- Craig Button: 22nd (final)
The NHL Draft tends to go in cycles through the three Canadian major junior leagues, and also between positions. The 2018 NHL Draft is widely considered a weaker Western Hockey League draft class but a very defender-heavy draft at the higher end. Spokane Chiefs blueliner Ty Smith represents the cream of the WHL crop for the 2018 class. He’s an intelligent, mobile, puck-moving defender who has the misfortune of being one of many strong defenders in this year’s draft.
There are a lot of things to like about Smith’s game. The first overall selection in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, he joined the league full-time in 2016-17 and was solid if unspectacular as a freshman. He showed occasional flashes of excellence that season, and those flashes have become more the rule than the exception during an exceptional 2017-18 campaign for Smith. He more than doubled his points from his rookie season and nearly tripled his goals output – he finished second in the WHL in scoring by a defender, behind only Medicine Hat’s David Quenneville (who’s two years older). He even had a seven-point game against Prince George in February.
The difference in Smith’s game from last season to this one boils down to a couple intermingled factors: experience and confidence. He was able to figure out what did and didn’t work on both sides of the puck as a rookie, and he’s adapted his game to compensate. As a result, he has a lot more confidence in terms of judging risk offensively and is much better at anticipating 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.
Aside from occasional defensive gaffes, Smith boasts an extremely well-rounded game with few holes. He skates really well. He passes well and has great vision of the other players on the ice. He’s more of a passer than a shooter, but he has a very effective shot. He’s a very able puck protector and moves it well in his own zone. You could argue that he’s not “elite,” in that he doesn’t have a collection of elite properties to his game. But his game lacks holes and virtually every part of it is good or very good. He has a few dynamic properties to his game, particularly in terms of his skating and play with the puck, that elevate him from the rest of the WHL pack. He’ll be a valuable addition to any NHL team’s crop of prospects.
Ty Smith – NHL Draft Projection
One of the top defenders in a very blueliner-rich 2018 Draft, Smith projects to go somewhere in the middle of the first round of the draft. Most projections have him going somewhere between 8th and 14th overall.
Here are the WHL leaders in points per game as an under-18 defenceman. Once again, this is since the '06-07 season.
Ty Smith and Calen Addison are putting up amazing numbers. pic.twitter.com/FYRKdzi95n
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) March 6, 2018
“A clean, reliable three-zone defender with leadership qualities and a team-first attitude, he is exactly the guy you want on the ice to kill a big penalty or lock horns with a top-scoring opponents. Wise beyond his years, Smith is almost destined for NHL longevity and has the potential to be a cornerstone piece and one of the top defenders in the league.” – Steve Kourninaos, The Draft Analyst
“The dynamic two-way defender continues to display his full arsenal of weapons with Spokane this season. The former first overall pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft, Smith is an excellent skater who demonstrates poise and patience with the puck. His outlets are crisp and his head is always up. He’s a player you fall in love with because he always makes the right play.” – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
- Excellent offensive vision
- Great skater
- Strong passer
- Effective shot from the point
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Physicality, needs to use his size more
- Needs to bulk up
- Needs to keep working on his situational awareness without the puck
Other 2018 NHL Draft Profiles
Smith projects as a second pairing defender and a power play quarterback. He stylistically resembles Morgan Rielly.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 8.5/10, Defense 8/10
Smith has represented Canada on several occasions in international tournaments. He won a silver medal at the Under-17 Hockey Challenge and a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He was also named a 2017-18 Western Conference First Team All-Star, the youngest player in either of the conference First All-Star Teams.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.