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Spokane Chiefs

Chiefs defenseman Ty Smith selected by New Jersey Devils in first round of NHL Draft

By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

Ty Smith spent all season meeting with NHL scouts after games had ended, and went through rigorous interviews at the NHL Draft Combine.

The interviews and mind games are now over, and Smith can finally call himself an NHL draft pick.

The New Jersey Devils picked the Chiefs defenseman with the 17th overall selection in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft in Dallas.

Smith was the first player drafted from the Western Hockey League and the sixth defenseman selected in a first round that is heavy on defensemen. Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres.

Smith is Spokane’s highest NHL draft pick since Jared Cowen went ninth overall to Ottawa in 2009.

“It’s special,” Smith said to a national TV audience on NBC Sports Network. “Growing up, you watch hockey and I kind of watched the draft every year. Ever since I was a kid, I watched all the guys do it in the first round and it’s kind of like a dream come true today.”

The 17th overall spot fell right in line with where Smith was projected. A number of mock drafts and prospect rankings had Smith anywhere from No. 10 to No. 21.

Smith, who scored 14 goals and had 59 assists while playing on the Chiefs’ top defensive pairing, joins a New Jersey team coming off a playoff appearance a year after having the first overall selection in the NHL Draft.

The former first overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft has impressed in his two seasons of junior hockey. He increased his scoring this past season by 41 points and played on Spokane’s top power play and penalty kill units.

It’s the second consecutive year the Chiefs had a player drafted in the first round. Kailer Yamamoto went 22nd overall to Edmonton at the 2017 NHL draft.

Smith will return to Spokane for his 18-year-old season this fall as the team’s top defenseman again.

Smith got plenty of exposure to NHL scouts this past season at home and at road games. He also played in the CHL Top Prospects Game in January and for Canada at this spring’s Under-18 World Hockey Championships. He was the team captain at both the Top Prospects Game and the U18s.

The draft’s second through seventh rounds will take place today. That’s when Chiefs defenseman Filip Kral is expected to hear his name. Kral projects as a third-, fourth- or fifth-round selection.

Two other Chiefs could be drafted: forwards Eli Zummack and Hudson Elynuik. Zummack is in his first year of eligibility, while Elynuik re-entered the draft after not signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted him in the third round in 2016.