Will Smith SJS signs ELC

Will Smith, the No. 4 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

Smith led NCAA Division I players with 71 points (25 goals, 41 assists) in 41 games as a freshman at Boston College this season. The 19-year-old was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top men's Division I player and set a Boston College record for most points by a freshman.

"I think it was time to take the next step," Smith said. "It's the best league in the world and you're getting the best players every single night. That's definitely something that factored in wanting to make that decision.

"It was a really tough decision because of just how much I love BC and my teammates there," Smith said. "We had a really special bond. Honestly, before I left for [2024 IIHF World Championship] I'd made up my mind that I was going to sign, but I wanted to make sure I did it at the right time."

He also helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship with nine points (five goals, four assists) in seven games, and didn't have a point in five games for the U.S. at the World Championship.

"Will is a dynamic and exciting young center and we are thrilled to have him join the organization after an impressive season with Boston College," Sharks general manager Mike Grier said. "We felt that this is the next best step for his development to becoming a full-time NHL player, and we are looking forward to seeing him compete at the highest level of hockey."

The Sharks (19-54-9) fired coach David Quinn on April 24 after finishing last in the NHL and failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. They started 0-10-1, second worst in NHL history after the New York Rangers in 1943-44 (0-14, one tie), and allowed at least seven goals 10 times and 10 goals twice.

San Jose owns the No. 1 pick in the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft after winning the NHL Draft Lottery on May 7 and are expected to select Boston University forward Macklin Celebrini, the top-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters. The Sharks also have the No. 14 pick in the first round from the trade of defenseman Erik Karlsson to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 2024 draft will be held at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round is June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1).

Smith and Celebrini went head to head several times this season, at college and at international events, but Smith said it would be better to have Celebrini as his teammate.

"It would be fun," Smith said. "Obviously I got to see him more than a couple of times this year. He's a great player. He's a BU guy, but if the Sharks pick him it would be pretty fun."

NHL.com independent correspondent Chelena Goldman contributed to this report.

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