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The New Jersey Devils drafted Spokane defenseman Ty Smith with the 17th overall pick.
Let's take a closer look at the selection.
At 5'10', Smith is a little undersized but he helps make up for it defensively with solid positioning and a good mind for the game. He knows where he has to be and has the skating ability to get there in a timely manner. Smith accelerates quickly, is great on his edges, and possesses a fairly high top speed.
With the puck on his stick, Smith is one of the better defenders in this class. He always makes smart reads with it. If there's an open man, Smith will find him. He's very patient and will wait for plays to develop/lanes to open rather than just forcing the puck into traffic. He does an excellent job of getting his shots around defenders and on net. Smith would benefit from adding a little more zip to his shot, which should come in time.
The biggest knock on Smith is his stature. He is a good defender for his size but, naturally, he sometimes gets into a trouble down low and around the net against bigger bodies. In saying that, he has a good motor and works hard. He's really competitive so it's not as big of a concern as it'd be for someone who is a little more lackadaisical.
As impressive as Smith is when you watch him, the numbers may paint an even brighter picture. Crazy, right?
Smith's raw totals of 73 points in 69 games are remarkably good. Only Evan Bouchard, who went 10th overall, recorded more among draft eligible defenders from the CHL. The same can be said at 5v5, where Smith's 39 points were only beat out by Bouchard's 45.
Smith did top CHL defenders in a few categories, though. He was on the ice for 93 goals for at 5v5. Noah Dobson (78), Evan Bouchard (75), and Nicolas Beaudin (75) are the only others who were on for 75 or more.
Smith also led the way with a +39 goal differential in that game state. Dobson (+31) was the only other defender above +30.
With such impressive on-ice goal numbers, it should be no surprise he also posted a CHL best Relative Goals For% of +18.16%, meaning Spokane controlled nearly 20% fewer of the 5v5 goals scored when Smith was on the bench catching a breather. Not bad considering he was the youngest defender on the team to appear in at least 40 games.
It's also worth noting Smith's microstats (shot contributions, zone entries, etc.) were awfully good in the nine games tracked by Mitch Brown of The Athletic.
Why did he slip?
If Smith is such a promising prospect, why did he slip to 17th overall? Great question, I'm glad you asked.
I know some scouts were disappointed by his play in the Under-18 tournament. Given that was the last time they saw him, it could have left a bad taste in their mouths heading into final scouting meetings. Smith's size probably didn't help his cause, either.
Factor in some guys *cough* Ty Dellandrea *cough* went much higher than anticipated and it was the perfect storm for Smith to drop a few slots.
Smith passes the eye test with flying colours, his statistical profile is excellent, and I know of at least a couple other teams that had Smith ranked inside the top-10 on their big board.
The Devils should be quite pleased Smith was available to them at 17.
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