As a Dallas Native andnow a 2007 Dallas Stars Prospect , Austin Smith is currently having a very strong NCAA Career and looking to become the first Native Texan to dress up for the Dallas Stars and in the NHL as a whole. Earlier this week, I did a Q&A with the Colgate Forward as he just started his Junior Season with the ECAC School and is looking to help get the Raiders back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
Since becoming drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2007, Austin Smith is quickly becoming a major face of hockey in Texas. He is in a very unique position that where he wouldn't be one of the first Texan trained andraised professional players, but he would also have the chance to play a big chunk of his professional career in Texas with not only the Dallas Stars, but with their AHL Affiliate Texas Stars down in Austin. He has steadily improved since he got drafted and Hockey's Future has him ranked #12 in the Dallas Stars Top 20 Prospects and has been high as Number 10 back in the spring of this year.
Here's the comments about Austin Smith from Hockey's Future
"Another strong season for Austin Smithfor Colgate University is certainly enticing for the Stars Brass. He has lead his club in points with 41 in 36 games. Smith will have a challenge in front of him in 2010-2011 as he will no longer rely on older line-mate and friend David Mclntyre for offensive support. He will likely have the services of Brian Day, but even more of the offensive load is going to fall on the speedy juniors shoulder.
Smith is a ball of energy and should meet the challenge quite well. He seems passionate for the game anddisplays an excellent compete level. In terms of translating his skills to the next level, Smith will need continue to put on some size without sacrificing speed and agility. It's likely that Colgate will live and die with talents of Smith for the next two seasons.
Shortly he got drafted by the Stars in 2007, he played his one andonly year of juniors with thePentiction Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). He made his time count there by being 2nd overall on the team in scoring and lead the team in goals during the regular season with 32 in 60 games played. That wasn't all by the Vees, after helping the Vees get first place in the Interior Conference andgetting a first round bye, the Vees beat the Salom Arm Silverbacks in a tough 7 game series, after that the Veestook over the playoffs by sweeping both the Westside Warriors in the Semifinals and then dominating the Nanaimo Clippers for the league championship.
Since he started his career with the Colgate Raiders, he has been a dynamite scoring threat by averaging nearly a point-a-game in his career by scoring 72 points in 73 NCAA Games. He was a weapon right from the start when he had a strong freshman year by scoring 31 points (17G 14A) included in that was that he was second in team scoring in his freshman year.
His sophomore year saw even better things from him he was the team leader in scoring and was second in assist with 25 in addition to 16 goals.
However, one thing that Austin Smith and his Colgate Raiders haven't experienced is success in the post-season. Despite finishing 4th in the regular season and getting a first round bye, the Raiders were sweeped in the Quarterfinals against St. Lawrence by losing bothtimes in a best-of-three series. That's one thing that Smith and the rest of the Raiders are looking to change. Last time that Colgate was in the NCAA Tournament was back in 2005 and with a strong offensive showing with players like Brian Day looking to help him out, the Raiders hope to end the NCAA Drought this year.
In Colgate's Season Opener against the Army Academy last weekend, Austin Smith scored his first goal of the season which was an insurance goal against Army midway through the 3rd period to give the Raiders a 3-1 win.
He's a speedy undersized player who's a dangerous scoring threat and can fly on the ice. If he can help his team to an ECAC Title and an NCAA Tournament Birth, and on an individual level continue to develop and improve as a player. It won't be long til he gets a chance to make his professional debut where he can comeback to Texas and show fans here that professional players can come from Texas. He's showing that players from Texas can make the pro ranks and on to the NHL and he's starting to realize that he could a major game changer in how hockey is promoted in Texas.
He's also someone where fans and other hockey hopefuls can look up to as an inspiration that players will be able to look up as a player that can make the NHL from the Texas and other states as well like Oklahoma.
In addition to Austin Smith, other prospects that you could see in the NHL one day from the DFW Area as well include Chris Brown who's a Phoenix Coyotes Prospect who was picked in 2009. He just started his sophomore year with the Michigan Wolverines. As well as Colin Jacobs who's in his second full year with the Seattle Thunerbirds (WHL) who some scouts think he could be a first round draft pick next year.
In the Q&A, Austin talks about his path to the Pros, learning about becoming a more complete player and talking about the benefits of promoting the NCAA & Different Junior Leagues to players and teams across the D/FW Area. In addition, his reaction to Mike Modano leaving the Dallas Stars and what he misses most about living in DFW.
To see more info on Southwest Players and Teams, check out my website at Texas Ice Hockey Expert
Here's the Q&A
1. Even though you are expected to be the main player for Colgate Offensively this season, what will be the biggest challenge to being a marked man and who are you expecting to help you out as well?
The Biggest challenge will be to staying focused and compose ed. However, I enjoy the challenge and I look forward to facing whetever obstacles I come up against. My team will help me get through it this year. I believe we are very deep and have good chemistry; we will have a very successful team this season.
2. What was the biggest thing that contributed to your ECAC Conference Disappointment against St. Lawrence in the Conference Quarterfinals Last Season?
I don't know if I can point to any one thing in specific, but I think we came up against a hot goalie and a team that had our number. With that being said I think our team this year is very determined and will use that as motivation to win our league and make the tournament.
3. As you enter your Junior Season with Colgate University, what's been the biggest thing that Head Coach Don Vaughan has taught you both on and off the ice and how it's affected your play?
He has taught me to keep my composure and he has helped me to keep my confidence throughout all parts of the season. He is a great teacher on the ice, and I have learned a great deal about playing both ends of the ice under his close watch. He is a great mentor and I have a great relationship with him that will carry me beyond my years at Colgate.
4. How far away are you from making your professional debut? Also, what are the biggest things that you still need to work on before making the step from the NCAA to the Professional Ranks?
Making the jump is about confidence and preparation. I believe I'm very close to making that step, but at the same time I like to stay focus on the present and doing what I can while I'mstill at the university to become a better all around player.
5. If you do end up playing for the Stars, how do you feel that this can be a major game changer on how the sport of hockey is promoted in the State of Texas. Not just for the Stars, but also educating fans and the public about the different junior leagues and the NCAA. In addition, helping out leagues and org. like the AT&T Metroplex HS Hockey League and Travel Teams like the Dallas Stars Elites.
It would help all those kids who have the dream to realize it as a reality. Being born and raised in Texas follow Texans would be able to have someone to look up to, and say he made why can't I? More then anything it can be an inspiration, but at the end of the day I think Texas will see an increase in professional players in the near future.
6. Even though you weren't at Dallas Stars Training Camp that just wrapped up as the season is about to begin. How much are you in contact with the team to track your progress andhave they mentioned anything to you about your chances of at least getting some playing time with the Dallas Stars AHL Affiliate in Austin if you have another strong year this year?
I have a good relationship with the Organization and I do keep in touch. But I'm worried at this time is being an impact player for Colgate, and when that time comes to make a decision I will reflect my options when the time is appropriate.
7. Every time your back in Dallas, how much have you been involved in looking to promote the NCAA & Different Junior Leagues to other players who may have a shot of playing in these leagues themselves?
I do what I can to spread the word, and I have talked to a decent amount of players in the area giving my story and my take on it all. I hope for the best for the future of Texas Hockey I would love to see more players in my position that I'm in.
8. For those of whom that have never heard of Colgate University, give us an idea of what the school is like and what is known for academically. Also, what is it like to play and live in Up-State New York over the last couple of seasons.
Colgate University is one of the top universities in the country. It's comparable to the likes of Cornell, Princeton, Yale, etc. The campus is incredibly beautiful and it's an awesome place to be. I enjoy playing up here andtraveling around the ECAC. The only downfall would be the brutual winters and the bitter cold.
9. Who do you feel is your biggest rival in the ECAC and who are you looking to knock off in the Conference as the season is about to begin?
For some reason we haven't been able to beat St. Lawrence since I have been here; so those games will be of great importance to us. Out two biggest rivals in the Conference are Cornell and Yale. There are both very good teams that we would enjoy beating, and if we want to finish on top they will most likely be the teams to beat.
10. Is their a current NHL Player that you try to model your game after?
With the State Fair of Texas going on right now, what do you think of Fried Foods like Deep Fried Chili Pie, Deep Fried Pop Tarts and Fried Beer?
HAHA I mean they taste great, but they are not good for you. So I have mixed emotions about it.
Celebrity that you want to meet the most?
Either Keira Knightley or Josh Hamilton
Your reaction to Modano leaving over the Off-Season?
It's disappointing because he's done so much for organization, but Joe knows what's best for the team and I respect the decision.
Other then family, thing you miss the most about Dallas?
I miss the food the most. I love Mexican Food, Barbecue, ChickFila, Chipotle, etc. New York can't offer the same quality of food.