First off I want to wish my congratulations to Madison native Craig Smith for making the Nashville Predators out of training camp.
But being from Wisconsin’s capital city, I feel I need to speak a few words on his behalf. Craig Smith is the type of player that should succeed in the National Hockey League. He has all the raw tools as a forward: the size, the speed, the physicality, the scoring touch, and the ability to beat a defenseman 1-on-1. If you are an NHL scout or fan of hockey, you can’t help but be impressed by Smith’s talent level.
However, something was never quite right with Smith in college. He was dominate player, as 27 goals and 76 points in two years can attest to, but Smith was also a bad penalty waiting to happen on a disciplined hockey team, racking up a whopping 154 minutes of sin bin time. He also struggled to score against his team’s best opponents. Smith’s three multigoal games last year all came against non-NCAA tournament teams (Holy Cross, Canisius and Bemidji State).
No doubt Smith’s aggressive style will go over well with Nashville fans. If Predators coach Barry Trotz can continue the process started by Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves of trying to make Smith a smarter hockey player, Nashville might have a real gem on their hands.
“According to some of people I’ve talked to, Craig hasn’t looked out of place at all (with Nashville) at rookie and training camp,” Eaves said. “One of the goals of his life was to play at the National Hockey League level. He sensed an opportunity to get there this year, so he’s determined (to do just that).”