Pete’s Pond: Ty Smilanic

The Quinnipiac freshman is already living up to the hype

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

Freshman forward Ty Smilanic had quite the memorable moment — he became the highest drafted Bobcat in school history as the 74th pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. 

“That was a really special moment for me and my family and to be the highest drafted player out of Quinnipiac University history that’s awesome too,” Smilanic said. “But I mean they’re such a great group of guys and teammates I have at Quinnipiac, they all texted me immediately after it happened. So, I mean, it’s a cool achievement, but I’m just happy to be part of Quinnipiac hockey.”

Only 11 months removed from his commitment to Quinnipiac, Smilanic is now part of a potential national championship contender and his goal with this team is nothing short of that.

“I came out to Quinnipiac, and I just fell in love with the players they have here and the culture, the coaches,” Smilanic said. “I love the idea that hockey’s the No. 1 thing on campus, and that’s really cool to me. I could have gone to Michigan where maybe hockey’s third, fourth on the order. So I mean to come here and join a rich history of hockey and hopefully bring the first national championship back to Quinnipiac.”

During a press conference with men’s hockey head coach Rand Pecknold and Smilanic, Pecknold noted that he expected Smilanic to be drafted higher and that Florida got a steal of a pick.

And I couldn’t agree more with Pecknold’s statement as I had Smilanic going as high as the 31st pick. However, three separate injuries throughout this past season is what caused his draft stock to drop.

Graphic by Connor Lawless

“He looks like a first-round talent to me,” Pecknold said. “He’s been dominant, he makes plays in small areas, he competes, he can skate. Elite level skater, great edges. So we’ve been really happy with him. I think he’s going to be, you know, one of the more dominant freshmen in our league this year.”

United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) head coach Seth Appert helped develop Smilanic’s skill set over the last two years. Oddly enough, he used to be the head coach for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an ECAC Hockey conference member.

“Ty is an explosive, world-class skater,” Appert said to “He is certainly one of the most dynamic players of the draft and has shown that while playing through numerous injuries this season.” 

Smilanic joined a team that engages every opponent with speed. The Bobcats create a lot of their offensive setups through odd-man rushes. Spacing is huge for his game as he likes to use his speed to force defensemen to create bigger gaps, allowing him to go to work.

His play style appears to mimic that of Quinnipiac’s best forward and newly instated senior captain Odeen Tufto. Players with speed and incredible hands love to deke and dangle in every area of the rink.

“Smilanic is an excellent skater,” said Ben Kerr, a hockey scout for “He has very good top-end speed and excellent acceleration … Smilanic combines his strong skating with good puckhandling skills. He can challenge defenders and take them wide and get to the net … He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. It is powerful and accurate and his quick hands can change the angle just before shooting, fooling goaltenders. His snapshot, slap shot, and one-timer are also effective.”

Prior to his commitment to Quinnipiac, Smilanic played at the junior level for the USNTDP in the United States Hockey League (USHL) as well as the U.S. National U17 and U18 teams.

While playing for the USNTDP in 2018-19, Smilanic recorded 9 goals and 8 assists for 17 points in 33 games. He then joined the U.S. National U17 team and posted 20 goals and 18 assists for 38 points in 54 games played — a near-exact points-per-game number to his USNTDP stats. And in one game at the U18 level, he scored one goal.

His next season, Smilanic blossomed and produced at a more elite level. In 34 games played for the U.S. National U18 team, he scored 7 goals and had 15 assists for 22 points. With the USNTDP, he scored 6 goals with 3 assists for 9 points in 12 games played.

“Ty Smilanic is on course to set his own path; he plays a dynamic game on the puck utilizing his speed and quickness to generate and produce offense,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “He gives a consistent effort and is relentless on pucks. Everything he does is high energy, utilizing his speed, quickness and competitiveness.”

With the 2020-21 NCAA or ECAC Hockey season in question at this point, it’s worth noting that his Western Hockey League rights are owned by the Regina Pats, should he opt to head to the Canadian Hockey League route after being drafted.

However, that is only if they are able to generate a season and the NCAA cannot.

For now, Pecknold will do whatever he can to prepare Smilanic for the season and build on his already explosive skills.

“His edges are elite like he has not just legitimate NHL speed but like elite NHL speed,” Pecknold said. “I think that’s his biggest trade. I mean, he had a great summer. He’s matured. He needs to work on some aspects of his game and as every 18-year-old does. That’s what we’re good at. We’ll round him out a little bit and can be a 200-foot player, but I think he’s got high character.”