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Smith eyes new prize

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I think I’m ready to make the jump to the pros. The NHL, probably not yet, but definitely the AHL next year. That’s the goal I’ve set. Calgary is going to do whatever is best for my development. In the end, they make the final call. Hunter Smith

With one goal in hand, Calgary Flames prospect Hunter Smith has another in his sight.

Less than one week removed from capturing the Memorial Cup with his Oshawa Generals, the 6-foot-7 Smith has eyes on trying to carve out a professional career next season.

“It’s kind of an interesting scenario,” said Smith, 19, who was selected 54th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, his second go-round.

“I think I’m ready to make the jump to the pros. The NHL, probably not yet, but definitely the AHL next year. That’s the goal I’ve set. Calgary is going to do whatever is best for my development. In the end, they make the final call. If I end up getting sent back to junior it’s just another year of confidence and I’m going to play a ton down here. That’s another option, too.”

Smith, who turns 20 in September, was selected in his second go-round in the NHL draft and is eligible to play in the AHL in 2015-16.

He’s 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.

The late-bloomer believes that if he can convince his skating is up to par, he’ll force Calgary’s hand into turning him pro.

“As long as I can prove my speed, if I can prove I can skate at that level, there isn’t going to be any choice,” said Smith, who has yet to sign an entry-level deal. “At 6-foot-7, you can’t be playing against kids anymore. Obviously playing against kids five years younger than you isn’t going to be best for my development. If I can get that pro style game quicker it’ll benefit me.”

Plus, Smith suggested, a Memorial Cup championship is a great ending point to his junior career.

“If you told me a couple years ago I probably wouldn’t have believed it but now it’s a reality,” said Smith, who had nine goals and 18 points in 21 games in Oshawa’s run to an OHL title to clinch a berth in the Memorial Cup. “It just goes to show that hard work can really pay off.

“It’s tough because after you win out of your league, you’re playing against other champions, against other people who know how to win, and you get into that tournament style and if you’re not ready to go right away you can find yourself in a hole early. It’s definitely one of the harder trophies to win. That’s what makes it a bit sweeter.”

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