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Getting to know Montreal Canadiens 101st overall selection Jack Smith

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Montreal went off the board and selected a Minnesota high-schooler in the fourth round.

The Montreal Canadiens went with offence for the third straight time by selecting forward Jack Smith with their first fourth-round pick.

When healthy, Smith has been a consistent point-producer at the high school level. He has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2021-22 season and onwards.

Birthplace: St. Cloud, Minnesota
Date of birth: July 06, 2002
Shoots: Left
Position: F
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: St. Cloud Cathedral (USHS-MN)

In 2018, he was drafted by Sioux Falls as number 13 overall in that year’s Phase 1 USHL Draft. He also received a tryout for the US National Team Development Program in 2017-18, but declined joining their final roster. Smith also declined joining Sioux Falls last year, choosing instead to remain and give it one last hurrah to reach the state championship with St. Cloud Cathedral.

Last year, Smith battled with injuries and was limited to just 17 games, including the playoffs. In a three-game window during December, he was unfortunate enough to suffer two separate injuries which, when combined, sidelined him for half the season. First, he tore a labrum in his shoulder and then he sprained the MCL in his knee.

When he was on the ice, he demonstrated why he was such a high USHL draft pick. His average PPG of 2.88 placed him among the top performers in the USHS-MN, just behind fellow Montreal fourth-rounder Blake Biondi. His 10 goals and 19 points in six playoff games shows us that not only did he return from his injuries, but he did so with a vengeance.

Elite Prospects

Smith is described as a prospect with a great shot who manages to find ways to utilize it. He’s got good lower-body strength, which helps him dominate his peers through his strong skating strides and solid neutral-zone game. There is no question though; the Canadiens are drafting him for his potential as a skilled finisher. Smith creates and finishes offence on the fly and his line with Blake Perbix and Nate Warner has been heralded as “one of the best lines in Cathedral history”.

Smith is not the tallest player, but he is well-developed physically. During last year, he added mass and used that extra strength to be more of a force in the retrieving game and when battling for pucks along the boards. He has also worked a lot on his skating to be able to become more all-round and add extra pace to his game.

Ranking

NHL Central Scouting: #169 (North American skaters)

Smith was not an expected fourth-round selection. With players like Martin Chromiak and Zion Nybeck still on the board, the probability of Montreal picking a forward was considerable. However, Smith was not a player on our radar. One might wonder if Trevor Timmins and the scouting team discovered him while they were in Minnesota scouting Biondi, who played in the same league last season.

As we can see from above, the scouting services who even so much as ranked Smith are limited. He was part of Hockey Prospect’s little black book, but they did not include him in their final rankings. Should this be seen as a sign that he is not worthy of a draft selection or just that he hasn’t had enough exposure, playing in an obscure league?

There are articles from his native Minnesota where he is praised as a hard-working, hockey-loving, perfectionist youngster. His coaches describe him as a smart kid, whose hockey knowledge has always exceeded his age. He seems extremely determined and laser-focused on becoming the best hockey player he can possibly be. He is not afraid to put in hard work to improve his overall skill set, which can be seen from the aforementioned examples of him using the off-season to improve his skating and his overall physique.

It is encouraging to see that he has already, at age 18, understood that you can come a long way by adding skating speed and body strength to a resume that already includes the ability to be a sniper. Smart, hard-working goal-scorers are always welcome assets in any organization. Important to note here is that Montreal will have plenty of time to develop him and work on any substantial flaws since he’s still a year removed from even getting to the NCAA.

Smith will certainly be a player to follow moving forward. Let us also hope that the injuries he picked up last year won’t derail any future development once he settles into playing higher tempo hockey in the USHL and the NCAA.

Jack Smith is a long-term project with a potentially high reward waiting at the finish line. With this pick, it becomes apparent that the Canadiens have decided to spend a fair amount of this year’s resources on improving their prospect depth in regards to high-scoring forwards.