Jeff Smith announced his arrival on the major stage of the hockey world this season in the BCHL with the Powell River Kings. His stellar play earned him a scholarship with UMass Lowell and could lead to the 18 year-old hearing his name called in the 2014 NHL Draft.
He finished the season with a 2.25 goals against average and a .923 save percentage, but his numbers were even stronger at midseason. That is less an indication of his game slipping, but more of an indictment against his defense and the difficulty in maintaining such lofty numbers.
Smith spent the previous seasons with Powell River and the Vancouver NE Chiefs midget organization, but he never put up such gaudy statistics until this past winter.
He will be heading to UMass Lowell to begin his college career later this summer. Initially a 2015 recruit to UML, he agreed to accelerate to 2014 when Connor Hellebuyck left early to sign with the Winnipeg Jets. Smith will likely be the go-to man between the pipes for Norm Bazin's squad, but he will have to fight for playing time with UMass-Amherst transfer Kevin Boyle.
Smith is an athletic goaltender with good size and composure between the pipes, according to Kent Lewis, his junior coach in Powell River.
"Jeff brings good size with a very calm demeanor in the net. He has excellent athletic ability," said the three-time BCHL Coastal Conference Coach of the Year. "He will be more than ready to go at the college level."
In addition to his terrific final year of junior hockey, Smith will also have the benefit of NHL teams knowing he is going to a college program known for developing goaltenders.
In addition to Hellebuyck, recent Lowell alum Carter Hutton has spent time with several NHL organizations including the Nashville Predators. NHL veteran Dwayne Rolosson is also a UML alum. Former Michigan Tech goaltender Cam Ellsworth is one of Bazin's assistants and works with the River Hawk goaltenders.
Central Scouting Final Ranking: 19
Hometown: Maple Ridge, British Columbia
2013-14 Team: Powell River Kings (BCHL)
2014-15 Team: UMass Lowell (NCAA)
Strengths: Athletic goaltender with good size and composure
Weakness: Relative unknown prior to this season could be reason to scare off some NHL clubs
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSports.