Adam Smith had a whirlwind first season at Bowling Green.
The defenseman is hoping for an easier sophomore campaign after joining the Falcons for the second half last season.
Smith earned a regular shift, and skated on the power-play and penalty-killing units. He finished the season with a goal and two assists and on-ice rating of +4, playing in 22 of the Falcons’ final 23 games. He also took just four penalties, all minors.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder made his debut Dec. 30 against Western Michigan, just three days after coming to BG. He originally was scheduled to join the Falcons for the 2016-17 season, but moved up his arrival date after BG had three defenseman leave the program earlier in the year.
Most recently, Smith attended the prospects camp of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, who drafted the Sharon, Ontario native in the seventh round last month. The Predators were one of four teams to talk to Smith prior to the draft.
“It definitely was a surreal experience, a dream come true,” said Smith, who watched the draft on television at home with family and friends. “This was my last year of being eligible for the draft, and I really didn’t expect to be drafted. But when I saw my name come up on the screen, it was really cool.”
NHL teams started to develop interest in Smith after he played for Canada East in the World Junior A Challenge in December. He continued his solid play at BG.
“After I came to Bowling Green, (getting drafted) started to seem like it could happen,” Smith said. “I played for Team Canada. After that, Coach Schutte (BG assistant Barry) said the coaches were getting some calls from NHL teams saying they had some interest in me.”
Smith began last season with the Newmarket Hurricanes in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, totaling five goals and nine assists in 32 games.
“Adam continued to excel all year,” Predators’ North American scout Ryan Rezmierski said on the team’s web site. “He started off playing in the OJHL, played in the Junior A Challenge, went up against some of the top competition in the world in that tournament and excelled.
“He went to Bowling Green State University after Christmas and took on a top-four role as a young defensemen in college and didn’t miss a beat,” Rezmierski added. “We just like what he brings, a well-rounded game. He can skate, is real solid defensively, and he is at a good program now, at Bowling Green State, to develop.”
Two days after Smith was drafted, he was attending the Predators’ week-long prospects camp. The camp includes draft picks and minor pros in the organization, including some who have played for the Predators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee.
“The camp was great,” said Smith, who turned 20 last month. “Definitely a lot of older guys there. What you pick up on are the little things they do, coming to the rink every day doing the extra stretch, doing extra everything, being committed to everything revolving around hockey and being a better player.
“You also see what they do with that three or four minutes before practice starts or what they’re doing when they get off the ice. They’re going to get up earlier than everyone else to get to the rink to prepare for practice. Their mind is going to be ready for practice, and the coaches are committed to making everyone’s game better, an all-in type of idea.”
The prospects had a seminar each day, covering all phases of hockey life. The sessions included cooking and nutrition, how to manage their money, how to interact with the media, and what to post and what not to post on social media.
Smith said his exit interview with Predators’ director of player development Scott Nichol went well.
“He said he was really happy with how I did and how I took a bit of a leadership role,” Smith said. “He said the college guys kind of hang out in the back and watch how everything goes, but they were happy with my stepping up to the front and being very involved for my first camp.”
Smith quickly adjusted to college hockey after making the difficult decision to leave his junior team midway through the season. Although he had the usual ups and downs of a first-year player at BG, he often was one of the team’s top four defenders.
And he did so without the benefit of training camp or having time to adjust to campus life and the academic demands of college.
“The (Newmarket) owners said to do what’s best for you, and they thought I was ready. My previous coaches thought I was ready,” Smith said. “They said we’re not in the business to win championships. We’re in the business to move players along. This is an opportunity for you, and this is what’s best for you.”
Now, Smith is looking forward to his sophomore season.
“I’m really excited to come back this fall because I know what to expect, instead of coming in halfway and not knowing what to expect and having to get accustomed to everything and getting to know everyone on the team,” Smith said. “My teammates and coaches were great in helping me adjust. They made the adjustment a lot easier, and I’m very grateful for that. I felt comfortable pretty quickly.”
This summer, Smith is home improving his skating and puck-handling skills. Although he’s skated on the power play, he’s still looking to provide the team with more offense.
“Adam is a great kid who is just starting to realize how good he can be,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He is willing to work hard and be a student of the game. Nashville got themselves a good one.”
“He’s a good two-day defenseman, big, strong, mobile,” Predators’ chief scout Jeff Kealty said on the team’s website. “He can contribute at both ends. He’s a good skater, mobile. He kind of fits into the way the game is played today. We think he’s going to continue to get better and better.”
Smith’s also catching up on his academics this summer, the result of his late arrival at BG. He’s already completed one online class this summer, and is currently finishing two more. He also finished one online class before joining the team.
Smith said he’ll almost be caught up academically by the time he returns to BG this fall. He has a 3.8 grade-point average and is undecided on a major, although he’s leaning towards economics.