Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me 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”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Ty Smilanic.
A member of this year’s US National Team Development Program U-18 squad, Ty Smilanic has put up seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 34 games this season. This includes three goals and six assists for nine points during the USHL portion of the schedule.
Last year, with the Under-17 team, Smilanic scored 20 goals and 38 points in 54 games. He even got a one-game call-up with the Under-18 squad. At the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, Smilanic scored two goals and an assist for three points in five tournament games. Smilanic is committed to attend Quinnipiac University and play for the Bobcats next season. He was originally committed to the University of Denver, before changing his mind and making a commitment to Quinnipiac in November. His WHL rights are owned by the Regina Pats, should he opt to head down the CHL route after being drafted.
Ty Smilanic Scouting Report
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born January 20th, 2002 — Denver, Colorado
Height 6’01” — Weight 177 lbs [185 cm / 80 kg]
Smilanic is an excellent skater. He has very good top-end speed and excellent acceleration. Combined with a good first step, he is able to win a lot of races to loose pucks, or to change speeds on the rush, using this variance to fool defenders. He also has very good edgework and agility. This also allows him to get by defenders with and without the puck as well as to play well in checking the other team’s best players. He is also strong in moving backwards, which also helps him to play a 200-foot game. Smilanic is strong on his skates and tough to knock off the puck when he plays against his peers. However, he could get pushed around a bit in exhibition games against college-level competition. Strengthening his lower body and improving his balance will be important going forward.
Smilanic combines his strong skating with good puckhandling skills. He can challenge defenders and take them wide and get to the net. When they back off to respect his speed, he can use the space created to shoot the puck on net or make a quick pass through an open lane to set up a teammate. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. It is powerful and accurate and his quick hands can change the angle just before shooting, fooling goaltenders. His snapshot, slap shot, and one-timer are also effective. Smilanic needs to do a bit more to get open when he doesn’t have the puck though. This will give his teammates more of an opportunity to set him up.
Smilanic also has some playmaking skills. He has good vision and can find a teammate for a scoring chance. Most of his assists come as a result of his hard work. He is strong in the cycle game, protecting the puck well and maintaining possession down low. He also works hard along the boards to win battles and retrieve pucks. Smilanic uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and create turnovers and scoring chances.
Smilanic is willing to work hard in his own end. He provides effective backpressure, supporting the defence against the rush. He also works hard down low, helping them in the cycle game. Smilanic is good positionally. He reads the play and anticipates what opponents will do, knocking the puck away with a quick-stick. When a turnover is created, he is able to transition up the ice and to the attack. His feet are always moving and he’s not afraid to battle along the boards. He can be even more effective if he gets strong.
Projection and Comparison
Smilanic is hard to get a read on. Despite all these skills, there is still something lacking in his production. Part of it is that the US NTDP rolls four lines, especially in their non-tournament games, and he does not get huge minutes or the chance to put up huge numbers. It also must be remembered that as a whole, this NTDP team is not near as talented as last year. Still, there is some pause that Smilanic has all the tools, but there is something missing in the toolbox. There has also been some talk that Smilanic has been playing through injuries this year, so that might be part of it.
If he can turn the offensive tools into more production, its easy to see a top-six forward with plenty of energy and the responsible two-way game that coaches will love. He’s a pretty safe pick though, as even if the offence never explodes he should be able to play a third or fourth line role going forward. The college route is a smart move for Smilanic who needs to put muscle on his lanky frame. His game is reminiscent of Alex Killorn, but this is a stylistic comparison and not one based on skill.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Ty Smilanic that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Ty Smilanic Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images
PLYMOUTH, MI – DECEMBER 12: Ty Smilanic #59 of the U.S. Nationals passes the puck against the Switzerland Nationals during day-2 of game two of the 2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament at USA Hockey Arena on December 12, 2018 in Plymouth, Michigan. USA defeated Switzerland 3-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)