Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Will Smith Scouting Report.
The fresh prince of the US National Team Development Program, Smith is the team’s top centre. He recently led the American squad to the gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships. Smith scored nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points in the nine-game tournament. Smith led the tournament in goals and points. He was named Tournament MVP, Best Forward, a tournament All-Star, and a top-three player on the team. This performance came on the heels of an incredible season with the NTDP. He put up 51 goals and 76 assists for 127 points in 60 games.
Smith also played in the 2022 Under-18s, winning a silver medal as an underage player. He put up two goals and two assists in four tournament games. Smith split the 2021-22 season between the NTDP Under-17 and Under-18 teams. He scored 31 goals and 33 assists for 64 points in 63 games. Smith is committed to playing his college hockey for the Boston College Eagles next year. Should he change his mind and go the CHL route, his rights are owned by the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. They drafted him ninth overall in the 2021 QMJHL American Draft.
Will Smith Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Right
Born March 17th, 2005 — Lexington, Massachusetts
Height 6’0″ — Weight 181 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Smith is a very good skater and this allows him to play a very creative game. He has very good speed and is able to create off the rush. His acceleration is also excellent. This allows him to win races to loose pucks. It also allows Smith to go wide on a defender and drop his shoulder, cutting to the front of the net. His ability to change speeds in the neutral zone creates openings and allows him to gain the line and effectively establish puck possession in the offensive zone. Smith also has very good edgework and agility. This makes him a real challenge for defenders to contain in one-on-one situations. Smith has good balance and does well along the boards and in front of the net. This area of his game should continue to improve as he adds muscle to his frame.
Smith controls the puck in the offensive zone, creating space and scoring chances for both himself and his linemates. He can make plays in a phone booth, with impressive hands and good lateral agility and excellent acceleration. This allows Smith to manipulate defenders and open up passing and shooting lanes. He has very good vision and hockey sense. Smith can control the puck down low, waiting for a teammate to get open. When they do, he can feather a pass through a tight passing lane. Smith is also very good with a saucer pass, avoiding opponents’ sticks and getting it to a teammate. This makes Smith a dangerous playmaker, one of the best in this draft.
Smith also has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. His goal-scoring has gone up as he has started to use it more often. Smith also has the soft hands to score in tight to the net. He can deke goaltenders, pounce on rebounds and quickly elevate them into tight openings, and tip-in or one-time a pass or shot from a teammate. His balance allows him to work in front of the net and win battles in the corners as well. With the puck on his stick, Smith is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice. He has the hockey sense to find openings in the defence and get open to take a pass from a teammate.
Smith also plays a 200-foot game and works hard in the defensive end. He backchecks effectively, bringing back pressure to support the defence against the rush as well as supporting the defence down low. His size and strength allow him to win battles in all three zones at the junior level. However, Smith will need to add muscle to his frame in order to continue to be successful at this at the pro level. He also does a good job of reading the play and using his stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, Smith is quick to move the puck up the ice and create offence on the rush. He is also good in the faceoff circle.
Projection and Comparison
Smith has all the tools to be a game-changing franchise-level centre in the NHL. He could use at least a year in the NCAA though, adding muscle to his frame and continuing to develop his two-way game as he faces tougher competition. Don’t expect him to stay at Boston College for long though. He should be in the NHL within a year or two. The team that drafts him will likely build around him as their top forward at even strength and a key part of the power play. Smith’s game is reminiscent of Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils. This is a stylistic comparison only though, and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Will Smith that are available on youtube and Twitter.
WILL SMITH. (Hockey) (not baseball) (or actor) pic.twitter.com/SUYDFHki7L
— alyssa (@lyssax86) April 20, 2023
Was going through some @USAHockeyNTDP games to evaluate Will Smith. In terms of Playmaking skills, he’s at the very top of this draft. Pretty impressive! #hockey #2023NHLDraft #USAHockey pic.twitter.com/ZwXVD8rraB
— BlueChipProspect (@BCprospect) January 1, 2023
Check back later for our next NHL Draft article.
Main photo by: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports