Four years ago, Nathan Smith made hockey history, becoming the first NHL draft pick who was born in the Tampa Bay area and graduated from a local high school.
This week, Smith achieved another milestone by making the U.S. Olympic Hockey team. The selection was possible after the NHL pulled out of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, forcing the U.S. to draw from other talent pools that included NCAA players.
Smith, a Mitchell graduate, was selected in the third round of the 2018 NHL draft by the Winnipeg Jets. He spent two seasons with Cedar Rapids in the USHL before joining Minnesota State, where he became a college star.
In fact, Smith currently leads Division I in scoring with 33 points. He is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top NCAA men’s player.
Growing up, Smith played roller hockey before taking up ice hockey when he was 11. He went to Hudson for two years, then transferred to Mitchell, where he played for the school’s club team in the Lightning High School Hockey League.
He established himself as a scorer with 41 goals and 45 assists in 15 games and helped Mitchell win a USA Hockey national title as a junior.
Now, he will try to win an Olympic title.
Smith joins Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, who will be an assistant with the U.S. team.
In about three weeks, the U.S. team will head to California to train. The hockey competition for the 2022 Winter Games is Feb. 9-20. Team USA is scheduled to play preliminary-round games Feb. 10, 12 and 13.