CALGARY – Ty Smith is just 17 years old and yet already has an impressive international hockey resume. The 5-foot-10 defenceman has represented Team Canada at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympic Games, 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Next week, Smith will once again don the Team Canada sweater at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, which brings together some of the best 17-year-old hockey players in the world.
And, despite this stellar CV is such a young age, one thing has eluded Smith on the international ice – and that is winning a gold medal. Canada’s U18 team lost in the quarter-finals at the 2017 U18 Worlds and Smith was also part of a pair of gold medal game losses, claiming the silver medal at both the World U17 Challenge and Youth Olympics.
“I’m very motivated,” says Smith, who was one of 22 players named to Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team. “That was a pretty disappointing finish losing out in the quarters (at the U18 Worlds, where Canada dropped a 7-3 final to Sweden). We wanted to represent our country better than that so, if I’m part of the team, we want to win. That’s why we’re going there. We’re going there to be successful. The last loss we had lights a fire under my belly.”
Opposing teams should look out. A motivated Smith could (and should) be a force. At 15, he was the top pick at the Western Hockey League bantam draft. He competed in the 2016 Telus Cup, Canada’s national midget championship, and was named the tournament’s top defenceman. In 2016-17, he led the Spokane Chiefs defenceman in scoring, despite being a rookie on that team and being 16 years old during the majority of the season (playing in a league dominated by 19 and 20-year-olds).
And though Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin is craving a lot of attention from NHL scouts as maybe the cream of the crop of players eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Smith is part of the discussion as well.
“I’m a good two-way defenceman,” says Smith when asked to describe his game. “I like to join up in the play and create offence. I try and play all areas of the game, whether that’s power play, penalty kill or 5-on-5. I try and take pride in being able to play in all situations. I also like the challenge of shutting down the top players on the other team.”
Smith will get ample help on the back end as Canada attempts to win its ninth gold medal in the past 10 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cups. Defencemen Jett Woo and Jared McIsaac are also expected to play large roles for Canada. Woo says there’s a familiarity already with many of his Team Canada teammates.
“It’s really cool. Even going into U17s, if I didn’t play on their team, I kind of knew who they were,” Woo says. “I talked to them or sit with them at lunch. I think almost everyone here I’m pretty familiar with. Especially with Ty Smith and Jared McIsaac, I’ve been with them since 2016 when we went to Lillehammer with the U16 team. There are a lot of great hockey players here who I’m really good friends with. I think that’s also a big part here, when you come to these tournaments, it’s a good chance to build relationships and to enjoy your time here.”
Canada’s roster of 22 players announced on Tuesday came after a five-day selection camp in Calgary, one which impressed head coach Brent Kisio.
“We’ve had a great selection camp here in Calgary, with all 44 players showing us what they’re made of,” said Kisio. “As a best-on-best tournament, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup allows us to showcase the very best Canadian talent in this age group. We are ready to make Canadians proud with how we represent them on and off the ice.”
Canada will face the Czech Republic in a pre-tournament game on Saturday and will open the Hlinka tournament with a battle against rival Russia on 7th August and will also face Finland and Slovakia in the preliminary round. The two semi-finals take place on 11th August and the gold and bronze medal games are scheduled for the next day.