The Nashville Predators have come to terms on a one-year, two-way deal with undrafted forward Cole Smith. Most recently playing out of the University of North Dakota, the 24-year-old set career highs during the 2019-20 season with 11 goals and 18 points in 34 contests with the Fighting Hawks, as UND claimed the NCHC regular season title.
Serving as an alternate captain, Smith, of Brainerd, MN. was a kinesiology major at North Dakota, following two years of play in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Steinbach Pistons, where he led his team with 26 goals and 61 points during the 2015-16 season.
“He is a big, strong guy who has gotten better every year,” said Predators Assistant General Manager Jeff Kealty in a team-issued press release. “If you talk to the people at North Dakota, they just rave about the character traits that he has: his competitiveness, his drive, his physicality, all those ingredients he adds to a team in a winning environment. We feel like he’s going to be able to add all of that to our organization.”
Smith served a ‘plus’ player in the plus/minus category each of the past three years, while currently listed as a finalist for the NCHC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Smith picked up 24 goals and 51 points in his 137-game university career, before seeing his final year cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Smith previously skated in two Tampa Bay Lightning development camps.
Smith has become the first player in Steinbach Pistons franchise history to sign an entry-level NHL contract after spending his last year of junior hockey with the team in Steinbach. He had 51 goals and 110 points in 119 total MJHL games over two full seasons of play. Speaking with Pistons’ staff Thursday, Smith made it clear that his time spent in the MJHL helped shape the player and person he is today.
“The Pistons were the group that welcomed me in to play junior and was a place where I was able to further my game,” Smith said in a team-issued press release from Steinbach. “Paul (Dyck) is such a genuine human and an outstanding hockey coach, and I just learned so much about the game from him. The Pistons as a whole helped provide me with opportunities to further my career. But not only that, they gave me some of my best friends and also taught me life lessons I carry with me today.”