Sunday, July 18, 2010
Catching up with Reilly Smith
By Mark Stepneski
Stars prospect Reilly Smith is coming off a solid season. Playing as a freshman on one of the top college teams in the nation – Miami University – Smith played in all 44 games, led the team in rookie goal scoring with 8 and finished second in rookie scoring with 20 points.
“It was a real big transition. I came from Junior A in Toronto, which was a big step going into play college hockey,” said Smith, a 19-year-old Ontario native. “It’s a whole different style of play, but I thought it was a great season. It was a great atmosphere to walk into and I just can’t wait until next year.”
And the Stars believe bigger things are ahead for Smith, a third round pick (69th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“Smith really took a step up in the second half of the season, “ said Les Jackson, Stars director of Scouting and Player Development. “He is a real intelligent offensive player. As he progresses, I suspect he’s going to have an impact on the points side of the game in college. … He's a crafty player. He's got some good offensive instincts and talent. I think he's had a great start in college. There's a lot of hope for him. There's talent there.”
Smith, a right wing, put up good numbers with the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2008-09, registering 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 49 games. Making the jump to playing at Miami this past season meant not only adjusting to the college game, but learning to adjust to a system to where defensive responsibility is a big part of the team’s success.
“Junior A in Toronto is a very offensive league and they probably don’t stress defense as much as they should, but coming to Miami they gave me a look at the opposite side of the spectrum and it really helped my game,” Smith said. “I’m grateful for it.”
Still, Smith was an offensive contributor for the RedHawks. He ranked eighth overall on the team in scoring and 16 of his 20 points came in the final 29 games of the season. The speedy, skilled forward saw pretty good ice time and played in key situations on a very good team.
“There were a lot of older guys and guys returning from the year before when they went to the Frozen Four,” said Smith. “I can’t thank the coaches enough for letting me have all that ice time, giving me the chance to improve and play with some great players.”
Miami made it to the Frozen Four again this past season, falling in the semifinal game. Along for the ride with Smith was left wing Curtis McKenzie, the Stars’ sixth round pick (159th overall) in the 2009 draft. McKenzie, who led the RedHawks in rookie scoring with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists, is Smith’s college roommate.
“It’s crazy how it all worked out,” Smith said. “We got drafted the same year and ended up as roommates. He’s a great guy, so we’ll probably end up as roommates for the rest of our college career.”
It sounds like it will be fun, especially when you hear the two talk about each other.
“It was pretty good having him here, “ Smith said of McKenzie as the two were getting ready to depart the Stars development camp that was held in Frisco earlier this month. “He was kind of hitting me at the end. I think he was the only guy head hunting out there at the end during the three-on-three.”
McKenzie denied it, offering proof there was no head hunting.
“No,” McKenzie responded when told of Smith’s comments. “His head would be off if I was head hunting.”
More on McKenzie and the bantering between the two Miami teammates in a future update.