Former Steinbach Piston and University of North Dakota stand-out Cole Smith has signed with the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League.
It's been a roller coaster of emotions for the senior, "the last couple days I was able to sign the contract and with the end of the season the way it was, it was weird and tough" Smith said Thursday afternoon. "But at least now, I have little something to be excited about."
Having an actual NHL contract sitting in front of him, Smith admits that he was a bit blown away. "It's pretty crazy really. It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NHL so to have the contract there, have my family around there for it, it's just everything I could have hoped."
Smith had a few options when it came to teams wanting to sign him but he felt Nashville was his best choice. "I think there is opportunity there. The style of play, it's something I always thought my game should be. Fast, physical, playing hard. Having that determination and being hard to play against. Speaking to them, the way they wanted me to come in and play, I thought it fit the way I played and carried my game."
The official contract is a 1 year, 2 way deal, meaning Smith can play in either the NHL or the AHL but he's not sure where his future is just yet. "I'm waiting right now. We don't know what's going to happen. It depends on the NHL and what they do. If the AHL opens up, I think I'd be expected to go there and get used to the professional level. But, I don't know. Everything is up in the air, kind of like everything else in the world right now. Just taking it day by day, week by week as of now."
Being 24-years-old, Smith knew that the contract would be a one year deal but he's ready to go out and earn more for himself. "It's year by year, you have to prove yourself at this level. At my age, I'm happy to get the one year. It's everything I ever asked for, just an opportunity so I'm very excited."
While he hasn't given it too much thought, the Brainerd, MN native does have his eye on his first big purchase with is professional hockey money. "I think it's time I get a truck that I can rely on, that might be the first big-boy purchase I make." Smith says with a chuckle. "I've always been pretty finicky with my money though, so I hope I can keep that up."
Smith spent two seasons with the Steinbach Pistons and he credits that time with helping get to where he is today. "Everybody's path is a little different. I think mine was especially different. Mine has always been when I'm given an opportunity, I try and make the most of it. Steinbach was my first opportunity to play juniors. The second year, I was able to take off and it gave me a chance to go to UND. I wasn't given a lot when I first got there but I worked my way up and had a pretty good senior season, I thought. With that, I was able to sign a contract and get a shot with Nashville. It's pretty cool looking back, how it all came to be. I pride myself on how it's all happened and how I've made the most of it. Hopefully, I just keep doing that."
Suiting up for the Nashville Predators, he has instant rivalries with both the Winnipeg Jets and his home state Minnesota Wild and he's already looking forward to those match ups. "It's going to be fun. When we're in Minnesota, we'll have fans on both sides. There's a little history in Manitoba but Pistons fans are pretty faithful, so I'm not too worried."
More from the professonal hockey player Cole Smith on the Steinbach Online podcast.