Nashville Predators Rookie Camp begins on September 10th, so to help you get ready we'll walk our way through the prospects, from youngest to oldest.
Craig Smith, Center - #15
Born: September 5, 1989 From: Madison, Wis.
Height: 197 Weight: 6-1 Shoots: Right
2010-2011 Team: U. of Wisconsin (WCHA)
Stats: 41 GP, 19G + 24A = 43 Pts, 87 PIM
Drafted: 2009 4th round (98)
Follow after the jump for some background!
Here's what Assistant GM Paul Fenton said about Smith after his outstanding performance at the World Championships:
"We brought Craig over (to the World Championships) on kind of a tryout basis, and as soon as he got over there, he just took off," Fenton said. "The coaches put him on a line with Derek Stepan, a guy he knew from University of Wisconsin, and that familiarity helped both of them on the ice. It has to be a great stepping stone for Craig, from a confidence standpoint and a development standpoint."
"He was one of the three best players on the team - and that was the consensus not just among the Team USA staff, but among the NHL scouts over there as well. He's matured beyond his years. I don't think the offense from Craig was a fluke. I think Craig has the ability to score in the NHL; he's scored wherever he's played. Down the line, his potential is as a top-six forward in the NHL."
It's important to note that with Smith, the buzz hasn't just been building because of his work at the World Championships. He enjoyed a strong season at the University of Wisconsin, and when compared to other 2008 draft-eligible forwards (comparably aged players), he ranked 12th in offensive production when normalized to NHL levels.
Arbitrary nickname we'll give him even though he'd probably hate it
"Little Cheese" - as the youngest of 3 University of Wisconsin products in the Predators system, I wonder if he has to bring the goods for the Badger watching parties.
Here's the preview video on Craig from the Preds site:
What's at stake
The front office hasn't been shy about touting Smith's chances of making an impact in Nashville this season. Making the jump from college hockey straight to the NHL is asking a lot of a young player, however, and he'll have to earn his way into the mix at the expense of guys like Cal O'Reilly and Blake Geoffrion. He'll probably go through Milwaukee like almost every Predators prospect, but NHL-caliber ability does indeed seem to be there.