Austin Smith is becoming one of the major faces of Hockey in the Southwest. Since he was drafted by the Dallas Stars back in 2007, he's in a very unique position where not only he could be one of the first Texans to play professionally, but be able to play a huge part of his pro career in Texas with the Dallas Stars and also the The team's AHL Affiliate in Austin where he can show his talent in his home state.
Shortly after he got drafted, he played his one and only year of Juniors with the Pentiction Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. He made his time count there by being 2nd overall in scoring and lead the Vees in goals during the regular season with 32 goals in 60 games. Then he lead the Vees to the 2008 BCHL Title by scoring 22 points in 15 games.
Then through his first two seasons at Colgate where he as averaged nearly a point a game by scoring 72 points in 73 career NCAA Games where he been lucky not to get injured or have anything else get in his way of his NHL Dream. After losing to St. Lawrence in the ECAC Quarterfinals last season despite finishing in 4th place and getting a first Round Bye. The Raiders are looking to beat St. Lawrence as well as ECAC Powerhouses Cornell & Yale as the Colgate Raiders will look to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
A speedy undersized player who has a dynamite scoring threat on the ice, he's going to take on the challenge of being a marked man for the Raiders who can fly on the ice. If he can help guide his team to the ECAC Title and continue to make major strides towards both a Conference Title and a NCAA Berth, as well as getting a chance to show the Stars that he is ready to make his pro debut (perhaps in Austin with the Texas Stars), then on to Dallas where he looks to possibly be the first Texan born and trained player to play in the National Hockey League in the near future.
He's starting to realize that he could be a possible game changer when it comes down to helping promote the sport here in Texas. Not only be playing so well in the BCHL & NCAA, but by someone who could spend a huge chunk of his pro career in Texas where fans can ID. and realize that players coming from Texas can start becoming a big reality.
In addition to Smith, Chris Brown of Flower Mound was a 2009 NHL Draft Pick of the Phoenix Coyotes and just started his sophomore year with Michigan University. Also coming down the pipe are Colin Jacobs who's playing his 2nd season with the Seattle Thunerbirds (WHL) and is being considered as a player who should go pretty high in the 2011 Draft next summer. Also Seth Jones who just recently made his debut for the USNTDP and many think he could be a big time prospect for the 2012 NHL Draft as well.
In the Q&A, Austin talks about his path to the Pros, learning about becoming a more complete player and teaching others about the benefits and the excitement of promoting the NCAA & Different Junior Leagues to others who have these dreams of their own. In addition, his reaction to Mike Modano leaving Dallas and what he misses the most about living in D/FW.
Here's his profiles and recent segments and stories.
Austin Smith's Colgate Profile
A-Z Inside College Hockey
Austin Smith named All Preseason ECAC
Austin Smith Pentiction Vess Profile from the BCHL
Here's the Austin Smith Q&A
1. Even though you are expected to be the main player for Colgate at least offensively this season, what will be the biggest challenge of being a marked man and who are you expecting to help you out as well?
The biggest challenge will be to staying focused and composed. 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 season as a team.
2. What was the biggest thing that contributed to your ECAC Conference Tournament Disappointment against St. Lawrence in the ECAC Conference Quarterfinals last year after finishing 4th and earning a first round bye last season?
I don't know if I can point to one thing in specific, but I think we came up against a hot goaltender 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 it to the tournament.
3. As you enter your Junior Season at 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 beyond my years here at Colgate.
4. How far away are you from making your professional debut? Also, what are the biggest things 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 here in 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 is a reality. Being born and raised in Texas fellow Texans would be able to have someone to look up to, and say he made it so why can't I? More then anything it would be the 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 team gets ready to start the season, how much are you in contact with them to track your progress and have they mentioned to you about your chances of maybe at least getting some playing time with the Dallas Stars AHL Affiliate in Austin if you have another strong year this season?
I have a good relationship with the organization and I do keep in touch. But I am worried about at this time is being an impact player for Colgate, and when that time comes to make a decision I will reflect on 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 and different Junior Leagues to other players who may have a shot of making these levels 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 the position that I am in.
8. For those of whom that have never heard of Colgate University, give us an idea of what the school is like and is known for academically? Also what its like to live and play in Up State New York over the last couple of years.
Colgate University is one of the top Universities in the country. Its comparable to the likes of Cornell, Princeton, Yale, etc. The campus is incredibly beautiful, and it is an awesome place to be. I enjoy playing up here and traveling around the ECAC. The only downfall would be the brutal winters and the bitter cold.
9. Who do you feel your biggest rival is 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 beaten St. Lawrence since I have been here; so those games will be of great importance this season. Our two biggest rivals this year will be Cornell and Yale. They 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 there a current NHL Player do you try to model your game after?
With the State Fair of Texas going on, what do you think of Fried Foods like Deep Fried Chili Pie, Deep Fried Pop Tarts and Fried Beer?
HAHA I mean that they taste great, but they are not good for you... So I guess I have mixed emotions.
Celebrity that you would like to meet the most?
Keira Knightley or Josh Hamilton
Your reaction to Mike Modano leaving the Stars over the Offseason?
It's disappointing because he's done so much for the organization, but Joe knows what's best for the team and I respect the decision.
Other then family, the thing you miss the most about D/FW?
I miss the food the most. I love Mexican Food, barbecue, Chickfila, Chipotle, etc. New York can't offer the same quality of food.
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