Will Smith, the San Jose Sharks’ top prospect, is officially a college student.
The question now is how long Smith will stay in Chestnut Hill. Could he turn professional after his freshman year, or perhaps stay for an additional season, chase a national title in 2025 if he hasn’t won one already with BC, and sign with the Sharks in two years?
Boston College’s standout freshman class also includes fellow first-round picks Gabe Perreault and Ryan Leonard, and Sportsnet draft analyst Sam Cosentino speculated that the college careers of those three players, who were linemates with the U.S. National Development Team, might be tied together to some extent.
“I look at Will likely as a one-year college player,” Cosentino told this news organization before the draft in June. “What’s unique about their situation is that the whole line is going to go to BC and I really think that each of the three of those guys wants to see if their game will translate — as well as they played at the (USNDT) — if that translates to college, so I think all three guys are going to be of that ilk.
“So at that point, now you’re looking at, ‘OK, did we have success, did I develop, where are we as a team?’ With all three as the building blocks moving forward for BC, is this something that we can look at as a national championship team as early as year two? I’m not all that familiar with the NCAA programs and where they are in their respective cycles, but having said that, I do know those three players quite well, I feel, and I do feel that they want an opportunity to go and win at the at the college level.”
The earliest Smith could turn pro would be in March or April after Boston College’s season ends. At the latest, BC’s season won’t end until April 13, the date of the NCAA national championship game in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Sharks play two more regular season games after that, on April 15 in Edmonton against Connor McDavid and the Oilers and on April 18 in Calgary against the Flames. Playing in those games would burn the first year of what would be a three-year entry-level deal. The San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, could also be playing well into April.
San Jose Sharks forward Will Smith (2) takes part in a prospect scrimmage at Tech CU Arena on Thursday, July 6, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. Smith was selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
But Chris Morehouse, the Sharks’ director of amateur scouting, speculated in June that Smith and general manager Mike Grier would sit down to talk about the future at the team’s development camp next summer.
“I hate giving timelines on kids because I just don’t feel like you’re doing the kid any justice,” Morehouse said. “You need to give the kids time. They will tell you when they’re ready.”
Besides attending classes and winning games, the 6-foot, 180-pound Smith said last month that he wants to use his time at BC to hit the weight room, “putting on some muscle, and getting more power in my skating is something I’m always working on.”
Cosentino felt that whenever the Sharks sign Smith, they must be ready to at least give him a chance to play in their top-six forward group.
“And that can be challenging,” Cosentino said. “So if that spot is not available for him — of course, he’s going to have to work to get there – he can play middle six minutes, maybe. But bottom three minutes? I don’t think works for a guy like Will Smith. His greatest asset is his ability to create offense and if he can’t be put in a situation to do that, he’s probably not likely an impactful member at the NHL level.”
In the meantime, Smith has a good shot of making Team USA’s U20 World Junior Championship team this winter and chasing Hockey East and NCAA championships with the Golden Eagles.
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Boston College’s promising incoming freshman class includes six players who were taken at this year’s draft in Nashville, Tennessee. Leonard went eighth overall to Washington and Perreault was drafted 23rd overall by the New York Rangers.
Cosentino speculated that if one of the three turns pro after the 2023-24 season, “that probably changes the complexion for the two other players. Now, if that doesn’t happen, and all three of them end up starting as freshmen in college this year, two years (in school) I don’t think would be out of the question.”
With the start of Boston College’s season less than six weeks away, the school’s social media team released a hype video of sorts over the weekend, with members of the team greeting each other and settling into the team’s locker room.
Boston College begins the season with a game against defending national champion Quinnipiac on Oct. 7.