TORONTO -- Oshawa Generals right wing Hunter Smith is hoping the success he had on the baseball diamond someday carries over to the ice.
"I grew up playing baseball and was a catcher," Smith told NHL.com. "I was a big home-run hitter, always hitting in the [No.] three or [No.] four hole."
Smith, born in Windsor, Ontario, was a catcher with the Windsor South Canadians baseball program for a few years before he decided to make hockey his full-time ambition.
"I think I loved baseball so much because we always won," he said. "One year we went 53-1, so we were always a championship-winning team, and it was just a lot of fun. There was no better feeling than trotting the bases. But baseball has been over with now for me for about four or five years."
Smith, a 6-foot-6, 208-pound forward, had the biggest jump on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft, landing at No. 39 after being ranked No. 140 in the midterm release in January.
"He's made himself into a player," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He came into the [Ontario Hockey League] as a role-type of player and worked hard to develop his skill set. He's one of the toughest guys in the league, but complements that with good puck-handling and passing ability. Big guys who are tough and skilled are very valuable in the NHL."
After playing 30 games during the 2012-13 season after sustaining a hand injury and being passed over in the 2013 draft, Smith rebounded in 2013-14 with 16 goals, 40 points and 100 penalty minutes in 64 games for the Generals.
"I was surprised [with the final ranking], but it's nice to get that recognition," Smith said. "I view it now as just a list, and at the end of the day it depends on when you get picked on draft day. Hopefully that's as high as 39. If not, I hope I can make the team that drafts me happy."
He's attending the NHL Scouting Combine this week with the hope of making a lasting impression on the scouts and perhaps hearing his name at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27-28.
"I never played on a winning team in hockey, sadly enough," he said. "I think I won one tournament growing up my whole life [in hockey]. I guess baseball was fun, but hockey is where my heart lies and one day I want to wear a [championship hockey] ring, so that's why I'm here [at the NHL Combine]."