Being in the West, against the bigger teams, you need those big guys to play a physical role so I hope I’m going to be a key part to that. - Hunter Smith
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Hunter Smith came into the 2013-14 season on a mission.
Passed over the in 2013 NHL Draft after being limited to just 30 games in the 2012-13 campaign, he wanted to prove that he was worthy of landing with an NHL club in this year's draft.
He did just that.
He worked day-in and day-out on improving his skill set, moving from a one-dimensional player to a versatile power forward. He skated in 64 contests with the Oshawa Generals, scoring 16 goals and 40 points while picking up 100 penalty minutes.
In the postseason, Smith rattled off three goals and 11 points through 12 games and was the Generals fourth-leading scorer in the playoffs.
The Flames were impressed with the strides he made over the course of the last year and drafted him 54th overall on Saturday.
"I was kind of in a tough spot last year getting passed through so this was a personal victory for myself," he told CalgaryFlames.com.
"I’m a big body guy at 6-foot-7, 220-pounds. I’m going to get heavier and I’m going to go into the corners and bang bodies. I’m going to fight when I have to and I’m going to create a lot of space and hopefully score some goals in the meantime."
NHL Central Scouting was also awed by Smith's development and he made the biggest jump on their final rankings of the top North American skaters, moving 101 spots from No. 140 to No. 39 in a span of three months. They tabbed him as a possible second-liner in the NHL.
"He's made himself into a player," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He came into the league as a role-type of player and worked hard to develop his skill set. He's one of the toughest guys in the Ontario Hockey League, but complements that with good puck-handling and passing ability. Big guys who are tough and skilled are very valuable in the NHL."
With that blend of size, skill and grit, Smith feels he fits the Flames mold perfectly and wasn't surprised to hear his name called by Calgary.
"DJ Smith – my coach – if he was a betting man he said he would have put his money on Calgary and that’s where I ended up … so, smart guy," he grinned.
"Being in the West, against the bigger teams, you need those big guys to play a physical role so I hope I’m going to be a key part to that."