Smith’s first WHL goal one for the memory bank
There’s no way Evan Smith will ever forget scoring his first ever WHL goal.
It wasn’t the end result of a rink-length rush, nor was it a fluke, with the puck glancing off his skate.
It was an impressive, heads-up play that allowed the Red Deer Rebels rookie forward to showcase his speed and deadly shot. Smith took a pass from defenceman Nicholas Andrusiak, broke down the right wing and wired the puck past Prince George Cougars netminder Joshua Ravensbergen in Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss.
“It was pretty exciting. I got a nice pass from ‘Drusky’ and just went down the wall, shot the puck and it went in,” the 17-year-old said Tuesday.
It was also the first WHL point for the Kamloops native, who has appeared in 15 of the Rebels’ 18 games this season.
Smith was selected in the fifth round —98th overall — of the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft and signed a standard players agreement with the Rebels in April of last year.
The six-foot-one, 168-pound right shot centre attended his first Rebels training camp last year and was reassigned to the Yale Hockey Academy U18 team. Smith was a point-per-game contributor with the U18 squad during the regular season, scoring 10 goals and adding 22 assists in 32 games, and then added two goals in four playoff contests.
He also played with Yale in last year’s U18 AAA Circle K Classic in Calgary, scoring once and adding one helper in two games.
Now he’s in Red Deer, hundreds of kilometres from home. Of course, considering last season was his third at the YHA in Abbotsford, he’s grown accustomed to playing away from family and friends.
“I’ve been out since I was 14 so I’m used to it,” he said. “I feel comfortable here, it’s a great place, the billets are great.”
As for his buddies and kin, they were able to witness Smith’s major junior talents when the Rebels took on the Blazers Nov. 3 in Kamloops, Red Deer’s first stop on a five-game BC Division trip.
‘Playing at home was fun, it was exciting,” he said. “I had lots of family, lots of friends come out. It was a pretty cool experience for sure.
“I just tried to have some fun out there, tried to enjoy every moment.”
Smith checked into training camp in late August fully believing that he was deserving of a permanent roster spot.
“I was trying to be as confident as possible . . . just have a good mindset coming in,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but I think I was prepared.”
Now that he’s a Rebel, Smith is fully committed to working out on a daily basis, practicing nearly every day and quite simply undertaking any task necessary to develop into a consistent contributor.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s fun. It’s what I want to do so I just continue to try my best, work out and try to be better every day,” he said.
The fact that he pays full attention to both his offensive and defensive duties makes him a quick study.
“I’m a 200 foot player, I feel I can play both ends of the ice,” said Smith. “I just try and fit into a role, try to be a hard working kid and just try my best out there every single shift.”
Despite displaying an honest work ethic each night, the Rebels lost four one-goal games on their BC Division trip.
“We didn’t play bad, one goal games can go either way,” said Smith. “Of course there’s another gear we can always get to . . . just keep working through the season and we can turn things around for sure.”
This week sees the Rebels take on the Calgary Hitmen in a home-and-home series, Friday (Nov. 17) at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, and Saturday (Nov. 18) at the Peavey Mart Centrium. Game time both nights is at 7 p.m.
Saturday is the first Rebels home game in three weeks following the Canadian Finals Rodeo and AgriTrade. It’ll also be the second “Beer Night” of the season (two domestic cans for $10) and the first-ever “Rebels Running of the Pooches” during the first intermission. Fans are encouraged to stay in their seats following the opening 20 minutes to catch all the four-legged race excitement on the ice at the Peavey Mart Centrium. Tickets are available through ticketsalberta.com.
(Photo by Xander Holcomb)