There is little about forward Gemel Smith that isn’t impressive.
He was an underrated part of the Owen Sound Attack’s run to the Memorial Cup last season, giving them a quality body of work in limited minutes. On another big stage, he was one of the best players on the ice at the 2012 CHL Top Prospects Game.
This season, the five-foot-11, 165-pound centre is stating his case for a first round selection in 2012 as he has racked up 20 goals and 55 points in 62 games thus far. Those numbers put him third on the Attack in scoring, and his plus-14 rating is fourth overall on the team, proving he’s more than just a one-trick pony.
The 17-year-old has excellent wheels, is very shifty and can elude defenders with ease, good vision and hockey sense, plays bigger than his size and battles hard every shift, is dependable at both ends of the rink, has a high compete level, and all-round outstanding offensive instincts. He simply creates nearly every time he sets foot on the ice, and plays to win. There is a reason his impressive résumé already includes an OHL Championship and a gold medal at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
I had the chance to catch up with the ultra-skilled Gemel Smith, for a quick Q and A.
Who has been your biggest influence and help in developing your game thus far?
Gemel: My mother and father, they always let me know how lucky I am to be playing, they keep me motivated, and help me out as much as possible.
I have really been impressed with your game since first seeing you in last years Memorial Cup, as you are such a well-rounded player, what do you see being your best attributes?
Gemel: I think my best attributes are my speed and shiftyness, as well as my tenacity on the puck.
Is there an NHLer you model your game after?
Gemel: I think I model my game after the Bruins Brad Marchand.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the OHL?
Gemel: My first pre season game I scored a goal, so that was kind of my welcoming to the league.
You’ve scored a bunch of goals over your young career in minor hockey, and now with the Attack, do you have one that stands out as your biggest?
Gemel: I don’t really have a goal that stands out for me.
Owen Sound has fallen a bit off the pace from last year, but you guys are still in the playoff mix. How do you like the make up of this years squad, and how do you like your chances of making a run in the post season?
Gemel: We have a great, fast, and gritty young team, so I know we can upset teams and go deep depending on how hard we want it.
You won a gold medal with Canada at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, an OHL Championship, and participated in the CHL Top Prospect’s game this year. Where do those rank as far as highlight’s of your career are concerned?
Gemel: It kind of just shows me I’m heading in the right direction, and that I need to keep it up to be successful.
With this being your draft year, have you felt any added pressure to perform?
Gemel: With it being my draft year there is a little bit of pressure, but I don’t really pay attention to all of that. To me, how I see it is, no matter what round you go it doesn’t matter, it’s what you do to stay there that counts.
I read somewhere that you were a standout guard for your high school basketball team right up until late in your minor-midget year. With so many Canadian kids making an impact at the NCAA level these days, did you ever think about that route, or has it always been hockey for you?
Gemel: It definitely crossed my mind a few times, but I was pretty sure that hockey was best for me.
In your opinion, who is the toughest defenseman to beat 1-on-1 in the OHL?
Gemel: Jared Tinordi for me is one of the hardest to beat one-on-one.
Best player you’ve played with and against?
Gemel: The best player I played with would have to be Joey Hishon, and the hardest I played against would have to be (Robbie) Czarnik of the Plymouth Whalers last year.