Ryan Smyth was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the first-round (6th overall) of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. He recently reflected on those moments and answered the following questions from MLBPlayers.com:
LAKings.com: What was it like for you as the draft was approaching?
Ryan Smyth: I had some pre-draft meetings with the Oilers, but to me it didn’t seem like they were that interested in taking me. They were excited about me as a player, but I really got the sense that Tampa Bay was really intrigued by me. You had the Espositos there then and they seemed really excited. They had me in meetings, asked me a bunch of questions, and told me that if I am available when they pick that they are going to take me. They had the eighth pick. Deep down inside, though, I kept telling myself how nice it would be to be an Oiler. I grew up in Banff and they were my favorite team. The Oilers took me sixth overall and I was ecstatic. I will never forget it. It was a big day for me and for my family. It was the thrill of a lifetime. Glen Sather, who had five Stanley Cups, was heading things up so I was pretty intrigued.
LAKings.com: Just how excited was your family that you would have the chance to play so close to home?
Ryan Smyth: The draft that year was held in Hartford, and my brother was drafted by the Hartford Whalers two years before that, so we had some family history in that city. When I got drafted, my family was overwhelmed. They were excited that I would be close to home for sure, and growing up my mom and dad were actually Flames fans. They had Calgary season tickets and there was a little fun in-family controversy but overall they were excited for me.
LAKings.com: You went on to play three NHL games during the 1994-95 season. What was that like?
Ryan Smyth: It was a tough thing then because of the lockout situation that had occurred in hockey. But my first NHL game was against the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum. That was very special. I lined up against Wayne Gretzky during my first shift. I only played 10, 11 minutes that night but it was just so exciting to play against my childhood hero Wayne Gretzky, who was a King then. Now being a King myself is pretty cool.
LAKings.com: Have you followed and gotten to know many guys well from that ’94 draft?
Ryan Smyth: I had the opportunity to play with many of the guys at the World Championships over the years but going back to juniors I played a lot against Jeff Friesen, who went to San Jose 11th overall. Jeff O’Neill was picked close to where I was picked and we had played together in World Juniors. I always kept an eye out for these guys and others.
LAKings.com: And finally, you suffered an injury recently at the World Championships this summer. Can you talk about that and what that means to the upcoming season?
Ryan Smyth :I played in an exhibition game and in a tournament game. I rolled my ankle in practice the next day near the post while going to the net. There are no side effects or pain for the long term. It healed up great and if we were playing today, I would be playing.