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NHL in the bloodlines of Ottawa's Dalton Smith

by Adam Kimelman
For Ottawa 67s forward Dalton Smith, playing hockey is as natural to him as breathing.
Considering his family history, that's not surprising.
Dalton's father, Derrick, played 10 seasons in the NHL and went to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1980s. His uncle, Keith Primeau, was the third pick of the 1990 Entry Draft and played 15 seasons with the Red Wings, Whalers, Hurricanes and Flyers. Another uncle is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Primeau, who just finished his 15th NHL season.
So to say Dalton Smith grew up around the game is quite an understatement. Rather than live in his family's shadow, however, he is carving his own niche. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound left wing had 21 goals, 44 points and a plus-20 rating in 62 OHL games this season, and is No. 73 on NHL Central Scouting's list of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft.
Smith also led the team with 129 penalty minutes; while some might worry about that high amount, his coach looks more at what kind of penalties he took than the total number.
"He didn't have a ridiculous amount of penalties, but I think he had 18 fights," Ottawa coach Chris Byrne told "He wasn't taking bad penalties very often. They seemed to be at the right time and standing up for teammates and fighting in the right situations."
It was that knowledge in how and when to throw his body around that not only made Smith a 20-goal scorer, but opened room for his highly-skilled linemates to post more than 35 goals and nearly 80 points each.
"He did a lot of that for me," Tyler Toffoli, No. 16 on Central Scouting's list, told "And that's why we had so much success this year. He opened a lot of space for myself and Cody Lindsay. At the same time, he had a touch of scoring. He went to the net hard and put in those hard-nosed goals, the kind of goals me or Lindsay wouldn't normally get. He would fill the void for that in our line."
Smith's high level of understanding his place in the game allows him to enjoy his role.
"That's my game," he told "Just open up space for those guys, getting pucks in the corners and finding them in the slot is a big part of my success and their success as well, having someone do that for them."
He did it well enough that scouts certainly took notice.
"Good hands with the puck, as well as with the fists," Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire -- who was a Flyers assistant coach when Derrick played in Philadelphia -- told "That kind of combination really intrigues NHL scouts. He'll be a significant draft choice. With time and development, he'll be a significant player in the National Hockey League."

"He (Derrick) was always known as a hard-working player and that's something I've picked up and learned to appreciate, all the hard work it takes to get to the next level," Dalton said. "It's something that I need to keep on improving and keep my work ethic through everything."
-- Dalton Smith, on his father

"Everything about him is work," Chris Edwards, Central Scouting's OHL scout, told "His skill set is good … he was on the second line there a lot of times with Toffoli. He got some power-play/penalty-kill time. He was a big chunk of that team that helped them get into the second round (of the playoffs) there."
Work is something that comes easy to Smith, through watching his dad and uncles over the years. Byrne said, "Most days I have to kick him off the ice at the end of practice."
"He (Derrick) was always known as a hard-working player and that's something I've picked up and learned to appreciate, all the hard work it takes to get to the next level," Dalton said. "It's something that I need to keep on improving and keep my work ethic through everything."
He also spends his summers skating with Wayne, with Keith leading drills. Seeing what current NHL players do is providing further motivation.

"Just how much stronger you have to get," Dalton said of what he learns. "It's not just 20-year-old kids you're playing with; it's going to be grown men you're going up against. They're a lot stronger, that much faster. Just seeing him work out and the stuff that he does really opens my eyes to how much stronger I have to get."

"He's watching these guys, watching how they take care of themselves, what they eat, how they worked out every day, how dedicated and focused they were," Derrick Smith told "That gives him a bit of an edge, because a lot of kids don't realize what it takes to get there and how hard you have to work."

Byrne told a story about how Smith was cut last year from the 67s and played Tier II hockey most of the season. He got into 17 OHL games at different points in the season, but Byrne said there was constant improvement, which earned him a full-time spot as a top-six forward this season.

"He has things to work on, same as any player at this age, and he does consistently work at those things," Byrne said. "He's gotten a lot better in the last two years, and I see him getting a lot better from here due to his strong work ethic."
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