Craig Smith scores a goal in a game agains Minnesota-Duluth. (photo credit: uwbadgers.com)
According to the University of Wisconsin's website, forward Craig Smith will forfeit his final two years of collegiate eligibility and join the Nashville Predators' organization.
From the release:
MADISON, Wis. - With two years of collegiate eligibility remaining for the Wisconsin Badgers, forward Craig Smith will become a professional hockey player. The Madison, Wis., native is a 2009 fourth-round pick (98th overall) of the NHL's Nashville Predators, the team of former Badgers Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion.
"We're excited for Craig," said Head Coach Mike Eaves. "The window of opportunity to make a move like this is sometimes small. The landscape has changed with Nashville in that the team has changed somewhat with free agency. Smitty had every thought after a successful senior men's World Championship to come back and play here at Wisconsin, but he feels like there is an opportunity now and he feels in his heart it is the right time to go."
Smith had an outstanding year last year at UW, tallying 43 points in 41 games for the Badgers. He was also named an assistant captain for the upcoming season, a role he obviously won't be able to fulfill.
In addition to his time at Wisconsin, Smith saw some time playing for the U.S. team at this year's World Championships where he put up 6 points, including 3 goals, in 7 games against some of the world's top competition.
At this year's development camp I got a chance to speak with Smith about his playing time at the international level. He called it an "absolute blast" saying, " I've never played for USA at an event like that. Getting a chance to play at the world championships, it was unbelievable. I never got a chance to play in the world juniors, or any under 18 world championships, so to have my first venue, going out there, that was something special."
David Poile alluded to Smith at last night's Skate Of The Union, saying he was trying to convince the forward to turn pro, and it looks like his efforts paid off.
This is obviously huge news for the Predators considering that forward is, without question, their weakest position. Smith will be able to come into training camp and compete for a spot right away. While Smith is not suddenly the answer to all of Nashville's forward concerns, he should be able to come in and have an immediate impact, whether that's in Milwaukee or Nashville.
And, in case you were interested, here is the full audio clip of my interview with Craig at prospect camp (which, ironically, includes him talking about his initial decision to return to school).