Ty Smith is in good company.
Just a few days ago, Smith was named the 32nd CHL Defenseman of the Year. By doing so, he became the first New Jersey Devils draftee to earn the recognition since it began in 1988.
The Spokane Chiefs star skated in 57 games this past season, compiling 69 points (7-62-69). The Chiefs captain added a goal and eight assists in 15 Western Hockey League (WHL) playoff games.
Selected by the Devils 17th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Smith is loaded with potential and he's just the latest defender to earn this award with a whole career left in front of him.
A trip down memory lane reveals the pedigree of players on the CHL Defenseman of the Year list. Here is a look at some of the top winners and their long NHL careers and accomplishments.
1. CHRIS PRONGER
Chris Pronger's name jumps out from this list of players. The dominant defender enjoyed a storied NHL career, reaching the NHL All-Star Game five times.
He was named the best defenseman in the CHL in 1993, following his second season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). That season, Pronger potted 15 goals and added 62 assists in 61 games.
The next season he made the jump to the NHL, joining the Hartford Whalers, who took him second overall in the 1993 NHL Draft.
Pronger went on to be an absolute force, skating for the Whalers, the St. Louis Blues, the Edmonton Oilers, the Anaheim Ducks, and Philadelphia Flyers. He was captain during various seasons for the Blues, Ducks, and Flyers.
Pronger has won two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010) and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2007.
The blueliner finished his NHL career having played 1,167 regular season games. He scored 57 goals and recorded 541 assists for a total of 698 points. In 173 postseason outings, Pronger recorded 121 points (26-95-121).
2. KEITH YANDLE
In 2006, Keith Yandle won CHL Defenseman of the Year after just one season with Moncton of the QMJHL in which he scored 25 goals and added 59 assists for a whopping 84 points in 66 games. Those numbers were good for third on the Wildcats in scoring.
Yandle, who was taken in the fourth round by the Coyotes in the 2005 NHL Draft, has enjoyed a solid NHL career. He has appeared in three NHL All-Star Games and led the entire league in assists by a defenseman in 2014-15.
Yandle has worn the "A" for both the Coyotes and now Florida Panthers. He also played parts of two seasons for the New York Rangers.
On January 5, 2019, Yandle recorded assist number 500, becoming just the 13th American-born defenseman to do so.
He has not missed a single game for each of the last four years and has skated in a total of 907 NHL regular season games thus far, recording 94 goals and 434 assists for a total of 528 points. The defenseman has also appeared in 51 postseason games, compiling 31 points (6-25-31).
3. DAN HAMHUIS
The 2002 winner of the CHL Defenseman of the Year was Dan Hamhuis, who has starred on the international stage while compiling a nice NHL resume.
He played for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL and was selected 12th overall by Nashville in the 2001 NHL Draft.
He'd go on to wear the "A" for the Predators from 2007-08 to 2008-09. After six seasons in Nashville, Hamhuis relocated to Vancouver where he played from 2010-11 to 2015-16. He then went on to play two seasons for the Stars and has since returned to Nashville in 2018-19.
Hamhuis has represented Canada internationally many times, winning World Championship gold medals in 2006-07 and 2014-15, and then silver in 2007-08 and 2008-09. He also won gold at the Olympics in 2014.
4. PATRICE BRISEBOIS
Montreal native Patrice Brisebois won the award in 1991 following his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and first with Drummondville. That season, Brisebois scored 17 goals and added 44 assists for 61 points in 54 games. His 61 points were the best among his defensive teammates and were good for sixth on the team in scoring.
In 1989, Brisebois was named the QMJHL's Best Professional Prospect. He won two QMJHL championships (1989, 1990) and led the junior league in scoring among defensemen in 1989-90.
The second-round pick of the Canadiens in the 1989 NHL Draft went on to win a Stanley Cup championship in his first full NHL season (1992-1993). Brisebois enjoyed a long NHL career and played for the Canadiens until 2003-04. After a one-season stint in Switzerland, the blueliner returned to the NHL to play two seasons for Colorado and then he finished off his career by returning to Montreal for two more.
Brisebois played a total of 1,009 NHL games, recording 98 goals and 322 assists for 420 points. In 98 playoff games, he had nine goals and 23 assists.
5. BRAD STUART
Brad Stuart was a superb player for the WHL's Regina Pats and Calgary Hitmen, and in 1999 he was named the best defender in juniors. In 1998, he was selected third overall by the San Jose Sharks.
Stuart was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1999-2000, after a 36-point season with the Sharks. He'd play for San Jose until he was traded to the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season and then he was traded to Calgary in 2006-07. He signed as a free agent with the Kings but was later flipped to Detroit that season, where he won the 2008 Stanley Cup.
A few years later, Stuart returned to San Jose before ultimately finishing his long NHL career with Colorado. He totaled 1056 regular season games in the NHL and recorded 80 goals and 255 assists for a total of 335 points. He finished with 142 playoff games to his name, scoring 10 goals and adding 30 assists.
THE NEW CREW:
The list of top talents to have won this award does not stop with those five names. Many recent winners are right in the thick of successful careers.
Ryan Ellis, who won the award in 2011, is enjoying a successful run with the Predators and has played in nearly 500 games since being selected 11th overall by Nashville in 2009.
Dougie Hamilton (2012) just recently scored the most goals in the NHL by a defenseman in 2017-18. He's skated in 505 regular season games for the Bruins, Flames, and Hurricanes and is only 25 years-old.
Ivan Provorov (2016) tied Hamilton with 17 goals in 2017-18 and is off to a solid start to his young NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Thomas Chabot (2017) has shown great promise over the last couple of seasons with Ottawa and was named to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2018-19.
For Ty Smith, his story remains very much unwritten. However, if he could follow in some of these footsteps, it would mean the Devils are getting a fixture of their blueline for years to come.