Matthew Daigle | Telegraph-Journal
July 8, 2022
When 15-year-old Saint Andrews forward Gabe Smith was drafted into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he wasn’t at home sitting by the phone anxiously awaiting a phone call.
He was on the ice.
He travelled to Fredericton to train at the Aitken Centre where his friend’s mom drove him and her son up to practice. As Smith was getting off the ice, he said she waved him down to tell him he was officially a Wildcat.
Smith was drafted 25th overall in the second round of the QMJHL draft by the Moncton Wildcats.
“It was a great way to find out for sure, just coming from doing the thing you love to being super excited and ready for the next season,” said Smith. “It [getting drafted] just means a lot, obviously, because it was everything to us as a kid and it was something that I never expected. If somebody told me that I was going to be playing in the QMJHL two, three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Turning 16 in August, Smith will be making the transition to junior hockey after his past season at Rothesay Netherwood School. The season prior, he was at RNS mainly playing soccer but played hockey for the KV Kings U15.
Smith said he played both soccer and hockey competitively before transitioning to hockey full-time. He is one of three RNS players drafted in the QMJHL this year including Kaden McNeil of Renous and Marcus Kearsey of Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador, said RNS boys head coach Jeff Lewis.
“I think anytime that happens, that’s obviously exciting for everybody involved,” said Lewis. “Gabe’s a really big body, super strong on his skates, he’s got a really good shot, he thinks the game well.”
Lewis said for players Smith’s age, the past couple years were tough with operations constantly stopping and starting. He said it’s a testament to their character and work ethic to continue to improve.
A Montreal Canadiens fan, Smith said one of his favourite players is Habs forward Cole Caufield. He said, in terms of his own game, he modelled his game from two players: Quinton Byfield of the Los Angeles Kings and fellow New Brunswicker Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I’m just thankful that I could be drafted to somewhere in New Brunswick,” said Smith. “I was just so happy that I went that high to a great organization. I was relieved I didn’t drop down or anything like that.”
Many players have a go-to meal before games. For Smith, while he couldn’t always have home cooking at RNS, he said pasta is a common dish he’d eat before games.
This Sunday, Smith will be off to Calgary as he will be one of 100 players nationwide participating in Canada’s National U17 Development Camp. He is one of just three players from New Brunswick who will be making the trip.
Smith said he just can’t wait to get on the ice so he can prepare as he makes the transition to the QMJHL.
“I’m just going to try and see other players and what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are and what they do well, and take things from everybody’s games,” said Smith. “Build up some confidence and look forward to improving things for the start of the QMJHL season, so I can do as much as I can for the Wildcats.”