On Target

Trajectory. Ceiling. Potential.

You can call it whatever the hell you want, but those terms have been around the game of hockey for what seems like an eternity. They might all sound cliche, when thrown around the rinks by scouts, coaches, organizations, and fans, but they perfectly describe young players trying to establish themselves within the game at a new level.

The scouting world talks about projecting, that’s what the job is all about, so it would be pretty hard pressed not to discuss the trajectory, potential and ceiling of Moncton Wildcats rookie forward Gabe Smith. Simply put Gabe Smith is on target to become a monster for the Cats.

Photo Credit Daniel St Louis

You could look at the stats and analytics all day long, but it’s the way the happy go lucky, ultra-competitive and confident kid plays the game that is so incredibly intriguing.

Smith’s ascension in the Cats line up is a perfect example of a young player understanding and accepting his role, while being willing to continue to learn and work diligently on every aspect of his game. You see those are incredibly rare traits or intangibles to possess in this day and age with all the entitlement we all see in the game. Smith’s progress boiled down to on-the-job training, but there lies one of the most intriguing aspects of all, he got better every time out.

Some young players have growing pains, obviously, there were some, but Smith’s trajectory was on point throughout the entire season. When the opportunity was there to step up or into a different role Gabe Smith was prepared to excel and exceed expectations.

That’s why his ceiling, potential and trajectory are so intriguing. Obviously, there’s work to be done, and Smith would be the first to tell you that, but it doesn’t take long to realize just how driven, confident and how invested the kid from St Andrews, New Brunswick is to the process to get better so he can reach his maximum potential.

“I think anyone who grew watching the Q, realizes it was a big change,” said Smith of his foray in the circuit.

“I was definitely intimidating, the big challenge was in my head stepping into the league, but as I went through it, I got better and better,” Smith said proudly.

What did Smith learn about himself as a player and person in his first foray in the QMJHL?

“Personally, I think the year went really well,” stressed Smith.

“On the ice, I learned that I need to work on my skating, and that I need to care about both ends of the ice. I’ve always done that, but it really got emphasized this season.”

“Off the ice, I learned the importance and value of being involved in the community, it’s huge with this team and to always give back to the fans because that’s the reason we are here.”

How exciting was it seeing his role on the team increase as the year went on and the pressures and excitement of his NHL draft year next?

“The more ice time the better, I was really happy to get that opportunity,” said Smith.

“The team had some injuries, so I had to step up and do the best I could in that situation.”

“Having that opportunity really meant a lot, and you know next year, I’m looking at keeping that going and contributing in the same way as I did at the end of the season.”

As far as NHL draft experience and pressure is concerned, Smith admits he can’t stop thinking about it.

La recrue Gabe Smith (9), des Wildcats, y va à fond de train pendant que le défenseur des Tigres Pier-Olivier Roy retraite au banc. – Gracieuseté: Daniel St. Louis, Moncton Wildcats Media Photos

“I think about it every day,” Smith said with a massive smile.

“I think it’s everyone’s dream when they are growing up, I just think about it every day, one hundred percent, so it’s a really big thing for me.”

Smith studies the game and his place in it endlessly.
“I watch hockey a lot.”

“I’m watching the playoffs as much as I can, I think that anyone that wants to get into hockey should be watching it all of the time so they can learn things from different pro guys.”

Smith understands that his skating has to improve and that it will be a pivotal factor in playing at the pro level.

“I’m going to work with as many people as I can to improve my skating.”

“ I’m going to be working with Chris Pierce who does a lot of training with pros and I’m going to work on my stride with Jill Plandowski.”

“I just have to get quicker, my lower body and core have to get stronger, so I’ll work on the first couple steps and my stride,” explained Smith.

“Hopefully next year I can take a big jump in that area of my game.”

Which player or power forward did Smith emulate, admire, and model his game after?

“There’s a lot of guys that come to mind, but like I’ve said before, Quinton Byfield is a younger guy that I like to watch play as well as Josh Anderson.”

“Anderson is big power forward that I like to watch, I think we have similar edge to our game. I like the players that play both ways, play hard and do anything for the guys around them those are the guys I play the most like.”

Grit, tenacity, skill, speed and smarts. That’s Gabe Smith and he’s exactly where he should be, on target and on the correct trajectory and path to becoming a key contributor to the Wildcats future success.

As far as the offensive numbers and contribution are concerned, well let’s just put it this way, be patient, because Smith is a on target in that department more than you think.

People don’t realize how well Smith can fire a puck. There’s no question the entire league will know by the end of next season.

“I think it’s hard to come without any confidence, and you’re worried about all these different things, and that you don’t want to make mistakes, especially at the start of the year, because I experienced so I didn’t get to shoot the puck as much as I wanted to, but with confidence I’ll be shooting the puck as much as I can and aiming to score.”

“Next year, I’ll try to get as many points as I can, it’s my draft year, so I’m going to think big, I’m going to do the best that I can with that for sure.”

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