nash smith feature
Getting his shot
An early cut two years ago, Nash Smith stuck with the game, found his confidence and played his way into a leading role in Moncton
Derek Jory
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April 26, 2018
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When Nash Smith tried out for the Moncton Flyers two years ago, he didn’t make it past the first round of cuts.

The forward was undersized and underskilled. His heart wasn’t in it.

Fast-forward to this season and the 17-year-old is the heart of the Flyers, who topped the New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island Major Midget Hockey League in the regular season, claimed the New Brunswick portion of the league title and are competing for a national championship at the 2018 TELUS Cup in Sudbury.

From zero to hero, that’s quite the transformation for Smith.

“In Grade 10 I was 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds and this year I went into camp at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, that helped a lot,” laughs Smith. “I didn’t have the skill to make it when I was 15; I had a shooting gallery in my basement at home and I didn’t even use it. I didn’t really have the desire to get better.”

Getting cut is a humbling experience. Smith took the feedback given and joined his high school team, the MacNaughton Highlanders. He scored 14 goals and had 25 points that season, but his confidence was still low. When Flyers tryouts rolled around the following season, Smith didn’t even go.

A second successful season with the Highlanders followed in 2016-17, in which Smith finished sixth in league scoring with 26 goals and 39 points. The 16-year-old was named to the Eastern Conference High School Hockey League’s second all-star team, and, surprise, surprise, as his work ethic improved, so did his confidence.

It isn’t commonplace for 17-year-olds who have never played AAA hockey to make the team out of tryouts, but Smith was lethal last fall during camp. Moncton head coach John DeCourcey was blown away.

“He scored goals in training camp, he scored goals in practice, he scored goals in scrimmages, he scored goals in exhibition games; he was scoring every day and he made it impossible to cut him. Eventually I realized we had to put this kid on the team. He earned it.”

That was definitely the right decision.

Smith led the Flyers in goals with 21 and finished second in team scoring, 14th in the NBPEIMMHL, with 31 points.

“It was an adjustment for him at first, but he’s got a great shot and a great release,” says DeCourcey. “Some guys are just natural goal-scorers. He had to work on the defensive side of the game to become a more rounded player, but he did and I give him credit.”

Classic late bloomer?

“Absolutely,” chuckles DeCourcey. “And he’s having a great time.”

A great time now, counters Smith. The jump from high school hockey to AAA was eye-opening and were it not for his mental maturity, this year may not have been as sweet as it was.

“We lost an early game to Charlottetown and I realized the game was a lot faster in AAA, the speed was an adjustment,” says Smith. “It was tough. You’ve got to bear down and work your hardest at all times.”

The lifestyle change that accompanied Major Midget hockey also took some getting used to for Smith.

“There’s quite a big difference from practicing a couple times a week to being on the ice six days a week, with training, too. It has pushed me, and you get in much better shape. Practices are hard. It’s a great challenge.”

As a 17-year-old, Smith will graduate from AAA hockey at the end of this season and he hopes to play for a Junior A team or get invited to a QMJHL camp next year – “but before that I need to get stronger and get my speed up to pace.”

You have a TELUS Cup to win as well, right?

“That’s true! It’s the biggest tournament of my life. I can’t wait to get going.”

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4567 / 905-906-5327 (mobile)
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

Katie Macleod
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-612-2893 (mobile)
kmacleod@hockeycanada.ca

 

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