Much like Leo Carlsson, if Will Smith finds himself still on the board when the Habs speak at pick #5 later this month, it is likely that Kent Hughes and Co will jump on the occasion and snag the exciting centre prospect. It must be noted that it would be less surprising to see Smith on the board than Carlsson though.
The Canadiens already hold multiple ties to Smith as he’s been coached by Hughes before. Many experts believe Montreal would see this as Smith “falling onto their lap” and they’ll simply smile, take the gift, and run. Smith is described as a player with real top line potential and much like Carlsson, he’s seen as a gifted offensive player that also takes care of his own end. Again, a perfect fit for the highly demanding Montreal market and the Canadiens fifth overall pick in this draft.
DOB: March 17, 2005
Weight: 172 lbs
Elite Prospects: 9
Future Considerations: 6
Daily Faceoff: 6
The Hockey News: 5
TSN (Bob McKenzie): 6
TSN (Craig Button): 6
NHL Central Scouting (North America): 3
Recruit Scouting: 5
Dobber Prospects: 7
Draft Prospects Hockey: 5
Smaht Scouting: 6
Smith is absolutely the outlier in this draft’s top five because he’s the only one that wasn’t ranked this high to start the year. Smith was mostly ranked in the early teens in November, had that stock rise to six to eight by January, and now appears poised to be selected at the top of the draft. In fact, in recent polling, ninth was the latest Smith’s name came out. Like many late risers, he appears here thanks to a “projectable frame” as a six-foot tall 175 lb centre who also put up impressive numbers, notching 127 points in 60 games with the US NTDP plus 20 more in seven games at the World Under-18’s. Those numbers came on the heels of 55 points in 64 games with two teams in the NTDP a year ago.
One part of Smith’s game that likely saw him jump up draft boards throughout the season is how complete his game is. Yes, he’s filled to the brim with offensive talent and potential, but he also plays a solid all-around game which is important if one is to graduate to play down the middle in the NHL, even more so in a market like Montreal that will dissect every last play microscopically. Another important factor is that Hughes knows Smith very well having coached him in minor hockey which should play a considerable role in how the Habs see this specific player.
There are two minimal question marks that surround Smith’s game and the first is skating. This is good news as it’s something that can be worked on. Worth noting that many scouts think that his agility will negate most of the skating issues. The other is risk aversion as Smith will sometimes pass up safe effective plays to try the high-risk high reward play. Again, something I think he can easily figure out at the next level as his hockey IQ is listed as a strength.
Smith is committed to Boston College for next season so the Habs will have to be patient, but likely not as patient as if they end up with Matvei Michkov. Smith’s time at Boston College is probably limited to a season or two before he joins the Habs. Except for Connor Bedard and maybe Leo Carlsson, the wait is somewhat expected and likely advantageous for the player’s development anyway.
Smith once again fits the organizational need for talent while checking off the comfort factor the Habs would have in selecting a player that has roots within the team’s management. One huge advantage that this year’s top selection for the Habs will have is the benefit of being inserted into a roster that will include far more offensive skill than the Habs teams from the last couple of decades, so the pressure to produce immediately might be somewhat mitigated by the time he does get to Montreal.
It’s unlikely to be an entry without any pressure because it is the Montreal market, but at least he’d get to share it with Juraj Slafkovsky and whoever the 2024 first-rounder ends up being.