|ForwardTrevor Smith has scored 10 goals and 14 assists for the Utah Grizzlies, the New York Islanders' ECHL affiliate.
It was less than a year ago when Trevor Smith
would hop on the bus with his University of New Hampshire teammates and travel roughly an hour's time to rival schools like Boston College and Boston University.
These days, road games for Smith require an airplane.
After two tremendous seasons at New Hampshire, the 22-year-old signed a well-deserved contract with the New York Islanders. He was able to appear in eight games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League late last season, where he notched a goal and two assists.
This season, Smith is honing his skills with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies. Under the tutelage of coach Jason Christie, Smith is thriving. In 20 games with the Isles' Double-A affiliate, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward has tallied 10 goals and 14 assists, which has him tied with Scott Burt for the team lead in scoring.
"We've just been taking it game by game," Smith said. "We're getting a lot of chances and just creating opportunties for each other. We've just been clicking and feeding off each other. It's been going well."
Christie has been thrilled not only with Smith's play, but his demeanor, too. The Grizzlies coach has rewarded the rookie with an abundance of ice time in all situations.
"He's been excellent to work with," said Christie, who has Utah back at the .500 mark (11-11-3) after an 0-3 start. "He's come down with a great work ethic and a good frame of mind. He's been playing in every situation, and he's grabbing it and running with it. He's been good."
More importantly, Smith has taken his reassignment from Bridgeport in stride. Christie has been impressed with the fact that the North Vancouver native is eager to learn at the ECHL level, which will only benefit him should he make a permanent jump in his career down the road.
"He's come down here with a terrific attitude," Christie said. "He's been working extremely hard and making players around him better. He's picked up a couple of guys' games down here, just from setting them up."
Smith admitted he didn't know much about the ECHL prior to his reassignment. While adjusting to the rigorous travel schedule has been the biggest issue, Smith has been delighted with his time in Salt Lake City. "It's a good league," Smith said. "It's a tough travel schedule (after) playing in New Hampshire. I was going to B.U. and B.C., which is about an hour drive. Here, you're on four-hour flights and going to Alaska. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's a lot of fun being on the road with these guys."
Smith has also had a lot of fun receiving the amount of ice time Christie has rewarded him with. Four of his 10 goals have come via special teams (3 power play, 1 shorthanded), and his plus-14 rating -- which is easily tops on the club -- is an indication of just how strong Smith has been on both ends of the ice.
"He's putting me out there as much as he can," Smith said. "I've just got to go out there and do my best. It?s awesome to have an opportunity like that. To be in a situation like that with him behind the bench, it's always nice when your coach is putting you out there."
Smith has gotten a taste of AHL hockey again this season, as he was held scoreless in four games with Bridgeport before being reassigned to Utah on Oct. 31. Since then, he's regained some confidence and helped the Grizzlies rebound after their rough start.
Now that he's feeling better about his own game, Smith is confident that if he continues to work hard and produce in Utah, it could only be a matter of time before he gets another shot with the Sound Tigers.
"I think I need to be more consistent with my game," Smith said. "To be honest with you, I think I was a little nervous at the start. I didn't have much confidence at the beginning. But after coming down here and getting a lot of ice time and playing in every situation, I just feel real confident with the puck. I'm excited to be out there."
And as long as he keeps his mind off a possible promotion, Christie believes Smith could get another crack at the AHL soon. In the meantime, though, the Grizzlies coach simply wants No. 23 to continue to improve in all facets of the game.
“The only thing he can control right now is how he comes down and works on the little things that he needs to," Christie said. "He's getting stronger as a skater. He's been playing down here in every situation -- penalty kill, first unit of the PP, five-on-five. He pays attention to details."
The adjustment from the college ranks was a tad easier than most for Smith, thanks to the brief stint he had with Bridgeport last season. While it was a crash course to life in pro hockey, the Islanders' prospect was thankful for the opportunity after signing a deal with the club on April 2, 2007. It also gave him a better idea of what to expect once training camp rolled around in September.
"That was a big adjustment, going from college to pro," said Smith, who has 18 points in his last 13 games. "There's a lot of changes and it's a different atmosphere. It took me a little bit of time to get used to it. I was lucky to get those eight games in at the end of last year. That was a big help for me this season to get started in my pro career."
A career that Smith couldn't wait to begin, which is why he ultimately decided to forego his final two years at New Hampshire and turned pro. Thus far, it appears Smith made the correct decision.
"That was a dream come true," Smith said of signing with the Islanders. "Leaving school was a tough decision, but after signing that contract and getting a move on with my pro career, it?s just been fabulous. For my family and everything -- it's just been so awesome. I'm real excited."
Brian Compton can be e-mailed at: email@example.com.