It’s been a great year for me, my team and my family and friends. It’s been really special, especially the past couple of months, to remember. I’m going to try to keep riding this out and keep riding my high into main camp. - Hunter Smith
It’s a ride that Hunter Smith might not have believed had you told him.
In a span of 369 days, the 19-year-old has gone from undrafted to a second round pick, to Memorial Cup champion, to signing an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames.
A pinch, it seems, would suffice to prove he’s not asleep.
Because it’s been one dream come true after another for Smith.
“I wouldn’t necessarily believe it, but we did all that,” Smith said. “It’s been a great year for me, my team and my family and friends. It’s been really special, especially the past couple of months, to remember. I’m going to try to keep riding this out and keep riding my high into main camp.”
It’s the culmination, Smith declared, of years of hard work.
“It’s unbelievable, especially to be a part of a Canadian organization like the Calgary Flames,” Smith said. “When you’re signing your name there, 19 years of hard work is all coming up to a bubble. It was a very exciting day for me and my family.”
If it feels like a bit of a whirlwind for the 6-foot-7 Oshawa Generals forward, it has.
It will continue, too.
Smith, who turns 20 in September, was selected in the second round (No. 54) in his second go-round in the NHL draft and is eligible to play in the AHL in 2015-16.
“I don’t really see myself heading back to Oshawa at this point,” he said. “Obviously the decision isn’t going to be made by me but I can control my own destiny and can put myself in the position to be a pro.
“I’m at a point now where I’m ready to make it to the next level, and at the worst playing at the AHL level next year.”
Smith has already spent parts of four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, compiling 40 goals and 91 points in 166 games split between the Generals and Windsor Spitfires. Twenty-three of his goals and 49 of those points, alongside 122 minutes in penalties, came in 2014-15 with Oshawa.
Hopefully, he suggested, he’s capped his junior career with the Generals as a Memorial Cup champion.
“I would like nothing more than to tell people for the rest of my life that I won my last junior hockey game,” he started, “especially in the Pepsi Colisée, such a historic building, and breaking the cold streak of 25 years and bringing the Memorial Cup back to Oshawa.”
The late-bloomer believes that if he can convince his skating is up to par, he’ll force the Flames’ hand into turning him pro.
It’ll start at Calgary’s development camp next week.
“I talked to development guys, Troy Crowder, and he said it’s going to be a good camp for skill development and power skating and just taking those things that you learn there and bringing back and using them the next eight weeks,” Smith said. “That’s the point of development camp, teaching and getting tips. I’m going to make sure I’m paying attention and trying to take as much as I can because it’s going to give me an edge coming into main camp.”