In the 2022 NHL Draft, the hockey world was shocked when Shane Wright fell from the top spot. He was projected to be the top pick in the draft. Then the Montreal Canadiens passed on him for Slovak scorer Juraj Slafkovsky. Then the New Jersey Devils selected another Slovakian, defenseman Simon Nemec. The Arizona Coyotes picked center Logan Cooley. And with just two picks to go, the hopes of EVERY Philadelphia Flyers fan were hoping that he’d get past the fourth spot.
That didn’t happen. The Seattle Kraken snatched him up with the fourth pick. Wright has spent most of this year with Seattle’s AHL team, but has played in eight games this year scoring a goal and notching an assist. Meanwhile, the Flyers drafted Cutter Gauthier with the very next pick. And so far, that pick appears to be trending well.
I mention this because drafts are notoriously hard to pin down. If you look at the recent NFL draft, nobody thought Jalen Carter, a projected top-3 pick would drop to ninth. Likewise, Nolan Smith was not expected to fall to 30th. And yet, the Eagles walked away with both. So, you never know who will be available when it is your time to make your pick.
One of the top centers in the draft, who is not named Connor Bedard anyway, is Will Smith. No…not that Will Smith. He’s not getting jiggy with anything but the puck.
Smith is 18 years old and stands at 6’0″ and 172 lbs. ESPN ranks him as the third best North American Skater while Tankathon has him being selected at the number five slot by Montreal. So, what is it about this Lexington, MA native that has everyone so high on him?
Well, the kid can score. As a member of the U.S. National Development Team for the last two seasons, he scored 14 goals with 14 assists in 2021-22 and 15 goals with 27 assists this past season. He is already committed to playing for Boston College next season.
There are a lot of great reviews on him. He won MVP honors at the Biosteel All-American Game, scoring two goals and assisting on another. The Athletic believes he is a top-five pick. The Hockey Writers project him to be a “top-six forward” in the NHL saying:
"“Smith is an above average skater, especially when it comes to maneuverability, which gives him an advantage in all three zones. He’s agile enough to quickly switch coverage on defense and usually fast enough to separate himself from defenders on the rush at the junior level.Smith attracts a lot of attention in the offensive zone, drawing multiple defenders in his gravity before making a deft pass out of pressure to one of his lucky teammates. He has a ton of deception built into his game, and is capable of faking opponents with his head, eyes, shoulders, and skates. It’s very difficult for defenders to predict where he’ll go next, and as soon as they commit one way he zips off in another.”"
If there is a concern for him, it seems to be on the penalty kill and making defensive errors. However, he is just 18 and has plenty of time to improve. There are also some concerns as to how he will do based on facing better competition at higher, more professional levels. But to be fair, you can say that with any kid being drafted in any sport.
If Smith does fall to number seven, he should be someone that the Flyers take a look at. Imagine seeing him on one of the top lines with sone of our young and up-and-coming stars can easily bring a smile to your face. If he is trends the way he is predicted to, he’d be a welcome addition to Philadelphia.