2014 Development Camp: Hunter Smith

Hunter Smith is a big, big dude.

When I met him at Calgary Flames development camp earlier this week, I was a bit taken aback at just how big he is. He’s listed at 6’7″ and 220 pounds, and he’s every bit as big as advertised. He’s also really excited to be a Calgary Flame, having joined the organization as the team’s second second-round selection (54th overall) in June’s NHL Draft.

Smith and I had a brief chat after one of the development camp on-ice sessions.

Congrats on joining the Flames. How have the last few weeks been for you?

It’s all been pretty quick. Spent the last week out here in Calgary and it’s a beautiful place, obviously. Got to meet all the staff and all the brass up top. They expect big things from me, but it’s been a good week.

You would’ve been one of the younger members of last year’s (2013) draft class [by virtue of your September 11 birthday]. You were chosen this year as one of the older 2014 picks. What were you able to do on the ice this past season that you weren’t the year before?

I left camp after that weak year I had [at] 235 pounds. I came back at 210, lost 25 pounds, and that improved my speed drastically. I think that’s what led to the big contribution from me up-front.

Scouts I know who watch Oshawa a lot were watching Michael Dal Colle a lot, but also mentioned “Who’s this Hunter Smith kid? He’s like a bull in a china shop!” Is that something you really set out to accomplish this season, in terms of using your size and speed to create space out there for your teammates?

Yeah, for sure. At six-foot-seven, that’s what I’ve got to do out there, create space, especially for guys like Dal Colle. And y’know, Dal Colle was a great guy for me to have on my team. He drew a lot of scouts’ attention, so the scouts were there for the game and I just got to put on my show while they were there for him.

What do you want to accomplish this coming year? I know you have one more year before you’re eligible for the AHL [in the 2015-16 season]. What do you want to do to get pro-ready?

I want to get my skating up, my skating and my speed. Put on a few pounds in the mean-time, but if I can get my speed up I think I can be a force to be reckoned with, and I want to get that up right away.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Hey, all the power to this kid wanting to work on his skating. Definitely an uphill battle. Hopefully he contracts one of the better power skating companies out there and doesn’t handcuff himself with the dregs like Serdanchy.

    • piscera.infada

      Isn’t skating the focus of the new player development hire (sorry, can’t remember his name off the top of my head)? He’s supposed to be some sort of skate/skating guru. I’d be interested to hear what the players think of his methods – everything he’s said in interviews on the Fan, seems nice in theory.

      • jeremywilhelm

        i read about him. The thought that this guy might be developing the Flames prospects skating is mildly terrifying.

        Suffice it to say, he’s a goon, who could never skate, who after his career was over decided to learn why he skated so bad.

        I am not saying he can’t learn the proper techniques, but usually if you want to teach something at the highest level, you should probably have had some skill in it beforehand.

        • I know nothing about the new coach, but I think it’s entirely possible for guys who can’t execute certain skills to be able to learn and teach them. “Those who can’t, teach” is a cliche for a reason after all.

          • FeyWest

            Kent Wilson with the word of the day “Aphorism” heheh who says reading forums can’t be educational?

            But I’m with you on this Kent I think it’s the guys who have faltered and learn from their mistakes as being the people best suited for teaching. They’ve been there, can mentor and tutor on the “What not to do” better than someone who’s “Perfect” per se.

          • FeyWest

            Nooo Kent how could you!? Here I was taking your word for it, you let me down, I dunno how I can trust you anymore…. You did it on purpose didnt you? 😉

            I’ll just have to proofread from now on!

        • FeyWest

          Saying you don’t think the guy can teach people how to skate because admittedly he wasn’t a great pro skater is about as fallacious an argument as there is. Wayne Gretzky was perhaps the greatest hockey player to ever lace up skates. How did he fair as a head coach? The answer is… Not very well.

          Furthermore, I would argue that learning why you’re bad at something is a completely reasonable way to become an expert in anything you do. Eliminating bad habits seems like an entirely sensible way to go about improving.

          From what I’ve heard/read the guy seems like a very respected coach. Whether or not he was a poor skater as a pro is pretty much irrelevant. Can he teach? the people hiring him seem to think so.

      • Rockmorton65

        Ever since his hiring, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Troy Crowders company. I’ve heard it said more than once that his is possibly one of the top power skating companies around.

  • Derzie

    Good attitude. Nice to see him focus on tangible improvement (speed, power) rather than career goals (ie. play in league x next year). I don’t like the new size fetish of BT/BB but place no ill will on the kids. Rooting for them.

    • Dayzz

      Couldn’t agree more with your last statement. I understand that its frustrating to watch BB/BT tunnel vision size over speed/skill, but there’s no point in writing off some of these kids as coke-machines. They could turn out to be solid contributors so the best thing to do is just root for them and let time take its course. A couple years down the road once they develop we’re going to have full freedom to critique these drafting decisions but for now I think its simply rediculous to voice such strong opinions. On a related note, I was extremely relieved to hear BT say “Lets not get lost in another big body. We want hockey players” in a recent dev camp interview. This makes me think that the recent focus on size is more to address a current organizational need (because lets face it, we’ve got lots of smaller skilled guys) and not a long-term blueprint for the team.

  • prendrefeu

    I’m trying to imagine Chara as a RW, but since I’m used to seeing Chara on the back line it’s hard for me, personally, to create a mental picture of it.

    (Smith is 2″ shorter)

    Should be interesting! Best wishes in your development, Hunter! Hope to see you on the dome ice soon.

    • jeremywilhelm

      Well, you’ve seen Chara play in front of the net on the powerplay no? Apparently that’s where Smith spends most of his time on the man advantage.

      Anyway, you’ve probably seen Brian Boyle before (6’7″ 251). Likely a better comparable for Smith.

      I think what the Flames are hoping for from Hunter is a bigger Ryane Clowe. Most people think of the most recent iteration of Clowe as a replacement-level plugger, but there was a time where he was a legitimate top6 forward.

  • FeyWest

    Just because BT drafted bigger guys this year doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to skill, IQ, etc… If I see drafts in the future exactly the same AND the guys don’t pan out ala Dutter then I’ll concede, but so far I’m really excited from the reports from Dev. Camp.

    -Edit- I never watched the drafts during the Dutter era because there was never anything exciting to the majority of players he drafted.

    • piscera.infada

      Exactly. Never once have I heard Treliving say the words “size over skill”. That’s the biggest issue I have with that argument. Sure, size and skill together seems to be elusive, but if you’re throwing darts (as seemed to be the analysis of the back end of this draft year), why not throw darts in the attempt to attain that elusive combination?

  • It will be fascinating to see how Smith does this season. His size and strange development schedule so far make guessing his progression very difficult.

    My line in the sand for him is over a PPG pace at the very least. A 6’7″ dude in his 18-19 season in junior should be fairly dominant if he’s going to be an NHLer.

    • Subversive

      My thoughts exactly and I said it before – after this next season we’ll know one way or another if Smith is a bust or a home run. I just don’t see much grey area with this guy. Sort of the opposite situation of Jankowski.

  • piscera.infada

    John Gilmour with a beautiful play to assist to Klimchuk for the first goal of the scrimmage today. Nice fake shot, great patience, good vision. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Gilmour in both scrimmages so far. He’s another good skater.

  • FeyWest

    Lol I was just about to comment on how good McDonald was looking for group A, and Brett Kulak beats him with a slapper. The goals are coming fast and furious in this one. I think it’s 3-2 for group A. Klimchuk has 2 according to Flames’ twitter.

  • McRib

    The one thing that comes standard with these monster’s is confidence. They grow up receiving respect from there peers, due to there size. Who doesn’t want to be a monsters friend?

    I worked with one of these monsters (kid) years ago, who would get called away to do some heavy lifting whenever the occasion presented itself.

    On one occasion ,I said to him after.”That’s not really fair that you big guys get all heavy lifting jobs”

    His reply. ” That’s ok ,cause we get all the chicks.”

  • McRib

    Hunter Smith has made two of the most impressive plays with the puck this scrimmage, period (1G, 1A). Kind of thought a big man like him would be lost playing 4v4, 3v3, 2v2 with all that open ice, yet he was better with the open ice. Kids got some offensive tools for certain!! I understand why he was getting so much hype from the OHL this year (Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino had him as a first rounder in his Mock Draft, Ranked 36th by ISS, 49th by Hockey News). Anyone who criticized this pick draft day might want to tread lightly, kid is not just all size. Brian Boyle as a compable seems very obtainable, at the least. I think he should improve offensive numbers signifcantly making plays like that in Oshawa this season.

  • McRib

    My Top. 10 scrimmage performances are as follows:

    1) Kenny Agostino (Dominated with up-tempo puck pursuit for shifts on end, great board play).

    2) John Gilmour (Used feet constantly to jump up into the rush with a few very smart heads up passes into the slot).

    3) Morgan Klimchuk (Two goals, made them look very easy, unbelievable release on shot that seems wasted for me playing in Regina where he has to do everything himself, because if he gets the puck in space it’s in).

    4) Johnny Gaudreau (Deeked the goalie out of his pants on a quadruple deeke, dangerous every shift, on another level toys with these opponents, could be number one on this list just wanted to highlight other players).

    5) Bill Arnold (Apparently he has cut weight to improve speed and it’s noticeable, worked a ton of plays with Klimchuk and had one nice solo effort).

    6) Brett Kulak (Love this kids wheels and game makes great decisions with the puck in the neutral zone, including a nice drop pass coming off top speed, also had a blast for a goal from an Agostino feed).

    7) Ryan Culkin (Hard passer finds outlets constantly through the seams, stood out at both ends playing a underrated quietly effective puck moving game needs to cleanup footwork in own end).

    8) Hunter Smith (Late in game made two very impressive skilled plays, beat a man straight up finished top corner and found teammate backdoor with perfect feed).

    9) Austin Carroll (Made a couple nice power moves, doesn’t hesitate with the puck just gets feet going to advance puck, and knows his role)

    10) Sam Bennett (Fairly quiet scrimmage from the top pick, still created a couple of plays, coaches seemed to be trying to highlight other players this game).

    • McRib

      I just got home from the session and have to agree with you for the most part. My observation was this the NCAA forwards have to adjust to the time and space they have at this level I saw both Johnny and Kenny hold onto the puck to long at times. Arnold was almost the other way as I saw him true to pass it off to soon a couple for times(you are not on the ice with Johnny).

      I was fine with the 4 on 4 but have to say could have done without the 3 on 3 or 2 on 2 I can see those type of drills at camps.

      I got there early and saw Ferland on the ice with a coach skating pretty hard. I was told it was only his third time back on the ice since his surgery so unless he has any set backs he should be good to go for the season.

      My other comments are the following; Wolfe North/ south skater. I really did not notice van B and as he played a number of games at the end of the year we have something to compare him with. So if he was invisible and the others were visible then we should be be alright.

      • McRib

        “I got there early and saw Ferland on the ice with a coach skating pretty hard. I was told it was only his third time back on the ice since his surgery so unless he has any setbacks he should be good to go for the season.”

        Interesting the site was actually showing a feed of Ferland skating with that coach via the webcast as well. Thanks for the update as I was wondering what player it was.

        Two comments that I took away from that, one Ferland has unbelievable hands and touch with the puck (even better than WHL days, where he was very good). Just going off of that he looked like an NHLer (kind of thought it was Glencross).

        Secondly whoever that skating coach was could skate like the wind, man he was flying! Ferlands conditioning looked below average as he was bent over most of the time between whistles, but it is understandable considering he is coming back from a lengthy time off and he came into main camp last year in great shape so I don’t doubt he will do it again. I honestly think Ferland if he figures it out could surprise some people in the next couple of years, as his touch with the puck for a big man is so impressive. He always played in awful shape in Junior, but seemed to have figured it out last year after loosing a bunch of weight in the summer. That said even out of shape to be honest I always thought he was the guy creating the chances when he was playing with Mark Stone on that high end Brandon line (However Stone got all of the credit). I don’t think a second line NHL forward is completely out of the question for him, third liner seems very obtainable. If I had to put my money on one Flames Prospect suprising people next year it would be Ferland with Brett Kulak a close second.

        • everton fc

          I’m with you on Ferland. He may very well surprise, has great hands, a good touch, and skates well for a big guy. Not to mention he can chuck ’em with the mitts off. He plays Burke’s game. They’ll be watching him closely.

    • Franko J

      Nice summary for your top 10 players. Here’s my take again on how it went this morning. First off it went 30 minutes total, with about half 5v5, the rest 4v3, 3v3 and then an extended period of 2v2. My overall impression is it was more spirited today, with most of the Flames’ prospects upping their game versus Monday.

      6+ GAUDREAU, once again strong on the puck, tenacious behind the net and showing great vision to the open man. Not as strong as Monday but maybe its because of more defensive awareness against when he had the puck. CARON made a couple nice plays against him.

      5+ ARNOLD, KLIMCHUK; both very fast, worked together well with 3 goals between them and many more great chances. These two were pretty dominant whenever they were on the ice, showing great vision, speed and a nice shot(Klimchuk), very aggressive defensively too, especially Arnold.
      5+ KANZIG, very good positional play, strong on the boards and in the corners.

      3+ AGOSTINO, WOLF, CARROLL & CHAPIE; Agostino especially strong on the puck and tenacious in forecheck, Wolf again strong everywhere and great hustle.

      2+ VAN BRABANT, GILMOUR, BELL, KULAK, BENNETT, SMITH & DIENES; These all played pretty solid with some good chances and goals.

      Overall today Smith was stronger and made a couple nifty plays to set-up/score goals. Bennett somewhat quieter but still buzzing around, defencemen with good passing and both scored. The biggest change from Monday though was the play of Arnold & Klimchuk who I’d say were the best of the day…

      • McRib

        I liked that invitee Adam Chapie a lot as well, followed the play constantly all game. I will definitely keep track of his game next year with UMass-Lowell. Also what a bazar path he has taken to get to this point, playing in some sort of Midget AA+ leauge in Cleveland then with the New Mexico Mustangs in the NAHL. If someone is going to fly below the radar of NHL teams to this point, it would be someone who has played in Cleveland & New Mexico for 3+ season before reaching the NCAA.

    • playastation

      Sorry man, but ‘Let’s only draft goalies in the 6th round and sign other goalies that teams don’t want’ isn’t much of a ‘plan’, regardless of what the stats say. The reason why the 6th and 7th around prospects are there in the 6th and 7th rounds is because they aren’t as good as the other prospects.

      You have needs, you find the guys you like, you draft them.

      Here, look at the Ducks drafting history for goalies in the last 5 years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Anaheim_Ducks_draft_picks

      And then get over it.

  • Franko J

    Although there should be tempered enthusiasm because after all it is only a development camp, I am pretty jacked that the team it appears has finally turned the page in regard to the draft. While this years draft garnered many different opinions and mixed reviews, by the response on the radio, the paper,and at FN I suffice to say the Flames cupboards are not so bare anymore when comes their prospect pool.

    Between the upcoming prospects tournament and into training camp I am looking forward to hearing more about the Flame’s prospects and potential (future) players for this team. I remember only a few years ago where the Flames only had 1 or 2 (if that) legitimate prospects pushing for a spot on the big club.

    Great many insightful and observant comments the last week in regards to the number of prospects and try out invitees to this years development camp.

    Overall, I really like the direction this team has decided to take in regards to drafting, assessing and developing players.