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San Jose Sharks Draft Will Smith 4th Overall

San Jose Sharks Draft Will Smith 4th Overall

With the 4th pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks have selected Will Smith of the USA National Team Development Program (NTDP)

About Will Smith

The Lexington, Mass., native played his junior hockey with the Boston Jr. Eagles before committing to U.S. National Development Team two years ago. Smith is just another product of the northeast state that has found himself in the conversation as a top USA prospect, following the likes of Matt Boldy and Matty Beniers. In his time with the NTDP, he was able to develop his skill, speed, and general offensive abilities, which led to him being ranked as one of the top prospects coming into the draft.

Related: 2023 NHL Draft Tracker

While at the NTDP, he produced a career 82 goals and 109 assists (191 points) in 123 games, which is the second most points ever behind current New Jersey Devil center Jack Hughes (228). He also scored 24 points (11 goals and 13 assists) in 11 career U-18 World Championship games, tied with Cole Caufield for third most in Team USA history behind just Hughes and Phil Kessel, concluding one of the best seasons ever with one of the best international tournaments for his age in USA hockey history.

THW Prospect Profile Excerpt

“Smith attracts a lot of attention in the offensive zone, drawing multiple defenders in his gravity before making a deft pass out of pressure to one of his lucky teammates. He has a ton of deception built into his game, and is capable of faking opponents with his head, eyes, shoulders, and skates. It’s very difficult for defenders to predict where he’ll go next, and as soon as they commit one way he zips off in another.

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“Smith’s skating might limit him a little bit in the NHL, as it won’t look quite as great against professional competition, though his hands and playmaking are so good that it might be a non-factor. His confidence and poise to wait just long enough to bait a pokecheck that opens up a passing lane is impressive for a player of any age. Smith’s decision making can be a little bit suspect at times as well, often passing up on safe/easy plays in favor of the flashier and more dangerous plays. While that has worked pretty well for him this year, he will likely need to reign in those decisions a little bit as he heads to the NCAA and eventually the NHL.

Will Smith USNTDP
Will Smith, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

“Producing points is not a problem for Smith as he’s currently on pace to score right around two points per game for the U18 NTDP squad, a nearly unheard of scoring pace. He’s right up around that same pace in the handful of USHL games as well, and I expect him to be a real point producer as a freshman with Boston College next season, in part because of the chemistry he has developed with his line mates Gabriel Perreault and Ryan Leonard who are also going to be freshman at Boston College next year.

Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide

“Smith is a dynamic offensive player who is centering the NTDP’s top line this year and is very creative offensively while being reliable defensively. This year’s U18 team in the NTDP is a bit more sparse when it comes to top-notch draft prospects, with Smith being one of just four prospects who are generally considered to be first-round level talents. Smith is an above average skater, especially when it comes to maneuverability, which gives him an advantage in all three zones. He’s agile enough to quickly switch coverage on defense and usually fast enough to separate himself from defenders on the rush at the junior level.”

Full player profile can be found here.

How This Affects the Sharks’ Plans

Smith has the potential to be a top-line center with a great two-way game. He will control an NHL power play from the flank, both as a finisher and a distributor, and could even turn into a guy the Sharks want on the penalty kill as well. Smith has 90-plus-point potential and his ability to pull off the absurd things he does at such a high speed.

2023 NHL Entry Draft Guide Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli Banner

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