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Gemel Smith Shows Dogged Determination

Thursday, 07.19.2012 / 11:21 AM / Feature
By Mark Stepneski
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Gemel Smith Shows Dogged Determination

Talk to people about Dallas Stars prospect Gemel Smith and one word comes up often – determination. Smith’s GM in junior hockey, Dale DeGray of the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, likes to call it dogged determination.

Gemel Smith meets with the media after being selected by Dallas at the draft

“I used to tell scouts, ‘watch him go into the corner against two guys or three guys, and I’ll put my money on him coming out with the puck,’” DeGray said. “And that dogged determination shows up on his backcheck. He’ll strip guys from back pressure all the time. It’s impressive.”

DeGray and his staff saw a lot more to Smith, a center, when they took him in the sixth round of the 2010 OHL Draft.

“He was an undersized guy that was a dimensional skater, he was an unbelievably quick kid with high skills,” said DeGray.

Speed, skill and determination are great assets when you aren’t one of the bigger guys on the ice. The 18-year-old Smith, who is listed at 5-10, 164 pounds, doesn’t let that lack of size deter him. He’s doesn’t shy away from those so-called dirty areas of the ice.

“I’m a gritty player. I like to get in guys’ faces,” said Smith, a native of Toronto. “I like to get in there. I’m a smaller guy and guys think I don’t like to get in there, but I like to hit, I like to be physical.”

And he makes the most of that speed.

“When you are going in there against bigger guys, it is something they hate. One of the biggest things they hate is speed,” said Smith. “You are not going to go strength-on-strength with a bigger guy, so I use speed to make up for size.”

Smith’s speed and hard-nosed style of play were mentioned often in scouting reports leading up to this summer’s NHL Draft, where he was ranked 37th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. International Scouting Services ranked him 59th overall, and listed him among the “sleepers” in the draft. The Stars selected Smith in the fourth round (104th overall).

“People think he is small, but he plays a real spirited offensive game,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel. “He’s slippery, crafty and plays with a lot of passion. I suspect he is going to find a way to make it hard on our team down the road to keep him off. He just plays a real determined game, and he’s talented.”

But for all the determination and talent, sometimes a player needs a break or a little help along the way. In the case of Smith, enter Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. He pitched in with some equipment for Smith, whose parents had a hard time coming up with the money to buy hockey gear for Smith and his siblings.

“(Daley) and my coach were really close. At the time I had three brothers playing hockey, so it was kind of hard for my parents to afford everything,” said Smith. “My coach gave him a call and asked if there was anything he could lend me. He gave some stuff, skates, shoulder pads and things like that. I really appreciated it from him.”

“I’m the type of guy that if I can help out anybody, I am more than willing to,” said Daley. “When you play this sport, it’s expensive. It’s not like you just go out on a field and do it. It does take a lot of resources to play hockey. I’m in a position where I am able to help out, and I try to when I can.”

And Smith has made the most of Daley’s generosity. The left-shot center has put together a nice resume. He was a part of Owen Sound’s 2010-11 OHL championship team, and played in the 2011 Memorial Cup. He won a gold medal with Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. And he took home a bronze medal with Canada at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship.

Not bad for that sixth-round pick in the 2010 OHL Draft.

“He came to that camp that year and it was just that dogged determination that he has, and his willingness that he has to be a little guy and still compete, go in the corners and just be one of those guys,” said DeGray. “He sold himself on us right away.”

Making the Owen Sound team was a major turning point for Smith.

“I came in as a sixth round pick and I wasn’t really supposed to make it,” Smith said. “That’s when I knew I really had a big chance.”

As an OHL rookie, a 16-year-old Smith suited up in 66 of 68 games in 2010-11 and picked up 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) while playing on a team stacked with older players who would take the Attack to the Memorial Cup.

“His minutes were lessened because of that. But if our top line missed a forward or a centerman, he could fill in on a top line without even missing a beat,” said DeGray. “That’s what he was for us, he was a fourth line player as a 16-year-old, who filled in on any of the lines at any time, and we didn’t miss a beat. That’s how good he was as a 16-year-old.”

He played in 21 of 22 playoff games during the Attack’s march to the OHL title and its first ever trip to the Memorial Cup. This past season he had a breakout campaign, putting up 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games for Owen Sound. DeGray expects bigger things this season.

“He’s a top-six forward on any team in the league,” DeGray said. “Do I see him getting a point-a-game-plus, without putting pressure on him? Yeah, I do. He’s that guy. He can kill penalties, play power play and he’ll play extra minutes. He’s very good in his own end. He has a very good understanding of defensive hockey.”

For Smith, it’s all about being a complete player. He believes that is his ticket to advancing his hockey career.

“I like to do everything,” said Smith. “I like to be a two-way player because that is where hockey players are really made.”

There’s more work to be done. He needs to add some size and strength. His offensive skills need honing as well.

The Stars’ recent development camp was a chance for Smith to work on his skills, get strength and conditioning tips, learn the ins and outs of what it will take to be a pro and to get acclimated to the organization. It also was a chance to spend some time with Daley, who gets an assist for helping him get this far. But Smith’s ultimate goal, obviously, is to make it to the NHL. And to get there he knows it will take a lot of what’s helped him reach this point – determination.

“If I keep working hard and doing the right things,” Smith said, “I’ll get there.”




1 NSH 62 41 14 7 188 147 89
2 ANA 62 38 17 7 182 174 83
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 62 37 20 5 183 146 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 60 29 19 12 162 153 70
9 CGY 61 33 24 4 174 158 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 DAL 61 27 25 9 191 202 63
12 COL 61 26 24 11 161 175 63
13 ARI 62 20 35 7 137 210 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46


J. Benn 61 23 37 -1 60
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 61 14 37 -3 51
E. Cole 56 18 14 4 32
J. Klingberg 47 10 22 4 32
T. Daley 58 16 15 -11 31
A. Hemsky 55 9 17 -7 26
A. Goligoski 61 2 24 4 26
C. Eakin 58 12 13 -3 25
A. Roussel 59 11 11 -11 22
K. Lehtonen 25 13 9 .906 2.96
J. Enroth 13 24 2 .900 3.31
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