NEWARK, N.J. -- Ty Smith has the look of a stronger and more confident player who intends to play for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The chances are good, particularly with the 19-year-old left-handed defenseman coming off the most successful season of his junior hockey career for Spokane of the Western Hockey League.
"I feel stronger, and am hoping I'm a little better defensively," Smith said. "I felt good throughout the season, played big minutes and felt strong and confident in my own end. You can tell when lifting weights when you're able to do a little more. All those things indicated I was doing all the right stuff."
Smith (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) is considered the Devils' top defenseman prospect. It's up to him to prove he's NHL ready after adding 7-8 pounds since the end of the season.
"He looks better physically," Devils coach John Hynes said. "After a year of maturity and the work ethic he put in, his body looks more fit, thicker, and that's something you want to see. I don't want to say he's necessarily on a mission, but he seems a little more focused as opposed to taking everything in for the first time."
Smith, selected by the Devils with the No. 17 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, has incentive to earn a roster spot after being one of the final players cut by New Jersey prior to last season.
"It's tough not to make the team, but at the same time I just tried to go back [to juniors], have a positive mindset and grow and develop in all areas," he said. "I kind of had to flip the switch. The biggest things [Hynes] preached were physical strength and becoming better on the defensive side."
Smith did that as captain for Spokane, tying for the lead among WHL defensemen with 62 assists and ranking fourth with 69 points in 57 regular-season games to earn Defenseman of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League. He had 22 multipoint games and 31 power-play points (five goals, 26 assists).
Hynes' exit meeting with Smith in September was featured during the second episode of a four-part NHL Network production, "Behind the Glass: New Jersey Devils Training Camp."
"It's gotten sent to me a few times," Smith said of the clip. "I get chirped about it. It's hard to show your reaction on the cameras and I was frustrated."
Video: Behind the Glass: Ty Smith sent back to the WHL
At the time, Hynes told Smith that although he impressed during training camp, he needed to mature a bit more and learn to defend better, while encouraging him to become an impact player. Smith said he has no desire to experience a similar meeting with Hynes at the end of camp this season.
"I think he'll use being cut as motivation in training camp, just as he did in the CHL last season," Hynes said.