2023 Draft Profile: Will Smith

Photo: NHL.com

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is now just a week away. In advance of the draft we continue our evaluation of players that the Washington Capitals could potentially select with the eighth overall pick. Today we take a look at forward Will Smith.


David Reinbacher
Matvei Michkov
Colby Barlow
Oliver Moore
Dalibor Dvorsky
Andrew Cristall
Gabe Perreault
Zach Benson

WILL SMITH – (18) – 6’0” – 172LBS, C, USNTDP (USHL/NTDP)

Smith is committed to Boston College for the 2023-24 season, where he will join fellow teammates and draftees Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault. The Lexington, Mass., native was second on the US National U18 team with 127 points (51 goals, 76 assists), which only trailed Perreault for the team lead. Furthermore, it was the second-best season in USNTDP history.

In the USHL, Smith had 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) which was third on the team, but also led the team in assists. Furthermore, he led the World Junior U18 tournament with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in only seven games. 

Even though Perreault was the team leader with a record-setting 132 points, Smith will likely get selected before him because his stock has risen.

Similar to other players we have reviewed, Smith is an elite passer with eyes on the back of his head. In a draft class filled with playmakers, the 18-year-old center is without question one of the most dynamic. He has tremendous puck handling abilities along with an extremely high hockey IQ.

Smith is also very nimble on his edges and can beat guys by moving laterally. Smith is a pretty fast skater as well. His shot is very quick and accurate, especially his one timer. 

The big area of improvement for Smith is his overall 200-foot game. His compete level is good  in the offensive zone, but in the defensive zone he tends to be a little lazy, which leads to missed coverage. 

Smith is a future No. 1 center for any team in the NHL. Corey Pronman of The Athletic compared him to Evgeny Kuznetsov. 




Corey Pronman: The Athletic

Smith is a dynamic offensive player who stands out every game with his talent. He has tremendous puck skills, vision and overall offensive creativity and projects to be a major asset on an NHL power play. He skates well and makes so many high-difficulty plays at a strong pace, which lends well to his pro projection. Smith is a high-end passer who is also able to finish chances from the dots. The only real wart in his game is I wouldn’t call him an overly physical or high-energy player. I don’t think he lacks effort. He’s around the puck a ton whenever he’s on the ice and even at times killed penalties for the program.

The Hockey Writers

Smith attracts a lot of attention in the offensive zone, drawing multiple defenders in his gravity before making a deft pass out of pressure to one of his lucky teammates. He has a ton of deception built into his game, and is capable of faking opponents with his head, eyes, shoulders, and skates. It’s very difficult for defenders to predict where he’ll go next, and as soon as they commit one way he zips off in another.

The ability to make tough plays under pressure at high speeds is often referred to as “pace”, and it is one of the biggest indicators that a player will find ways to succeed in the NHL someday against the fastest and smartest competition in the world. No matter what you call it, Smith has it. In fact, he thinks so quickly that he’s often making plays in an effort to predict what defenses will do next which can sometimes be as dangerous as it is exciting. 

Elite Prospects 2023 draft guide

It’s not hard to see the appeal with Smith. He’s one of the draft’s most gifted puckhandlers, a human highlight reel almost every time he steps onto the ice. His ability to turn the mundane – like a pass reception on the breakout or a puck retrieval along the wall – into something special is really something to behold.


FCHockey: 5
NHL Central Scouting: 3 (among NA skaters)
EliteProspects: 7
The Hockey News: 5

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to 2023 Draft Profile: Will Smith

  1. GRin430 says:

    I seriously doubt that Smith will be available at 8. Shoulda tanked harder…

    Note that there are a couple posts on that Russian machinery site about Michkov angling to get picked by the Caps. There’s also a quote from Andrei Nikolishin, the Caps’ Russia scout, that really hammers Michkov for being an a-hole. I’m not sure what the truth is about the kid, but if I’m the Caps, I’d do some serious due diligence on him before picking him, even if he is an elite talent. They don’t need another Semin, or even another Kuznetsov. Another Ovechkin would be great, but I would like one that actually plays a full 200-ft game his entire career, please… (I know, I ask too much… but I’ve been pretty good so far this year, Santa….Okay, maybe not THAT good, but think of all the really good Caps fans out there, they collectively deserve a really nice present…)

    • Anonymous says:

      Click-bait summer fodder. Have also read Michkov is a head case. Hard pass, regardless.

      I like Dvorsky or Benson a lot. Reinbacher as well. Any of those three and we have hit a home run.

    • hockeydruid says:

      I have read that he is impossible for scouts to interview and that he has problems with his teammate and even had a fight with Capitals prospect Ivan Miroshnichenko at a junior even. May have great talent but seems to be a head case so a hard pass on Michkov. There are players just as good or better that are not head cases and the Caps can not afford to draft a head case again!

  2. redLitYogi says:

    excellent previews and the films are superb. Keep it up. I’m going back over the ones I’ve missed. So far, the one that has blown me away is Zach Benson.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, please. Or Zach Bensen.

  4. Prevent Defense says:

    Tonight’s Calder Cup Finals Game Seven is definitely HIGH NOON! It’s Marshal Will Kane against outlaw Frank Miller and his gang, with the gunfight right after the arrival of the noon train in Hadleyville.

    Will the Hershey Bears wimp out like the citizens of Hadleyville? Or will they stand tall and fight – like Gary Cooper?

    It’s been some years since the Caps’ farm team eclipsed the parent club in importance. Despite the West Coast start time, I’ll be watching!

  5. andrew777dc says:

    Why do I start singing off “It’s the good guys dress in black, remember that… Galaxy defenders! … Nahnahnahnah” Every time I hear his name 🤷🏼‍♂️

Leave a Reply