As I've noted before, the Western League does things a little differently than the other CHL circuits in Ontario and Quebec. Players are drafted out of bantam instead of midget, then spend a year developing, as opposed to jumping into major junior right away as 16-year-olds.
So it's going to be a while before the name Ty Smith becomes relevant to NHL fans, but folks in Spokane can start to get excited.
Smith, an offensively gifted defenseman with vision who has been compared to Morgan Rielly, was selected first overall by the Chiefs, a pick the franchise acquired in an already lop-sided trade with Saskatoon. An Alberta native who played this past season at the Delta Academy in B.C., the 2000 birthday also played at the Canada Winter Games, earning silver with Team Alberta.
Once he suits up for Spokane in 2016-17, Smith will be part of a nice growing core that will also include WHL rookie of the year runner-up Kailer Yamamoto and high-scoring center Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Spokane's first-rounder from the 2014 bantam draft. The Chiefs also had their own first-rounder at ninth overall today, tabbing power forward Koby Morrisseau out of Manitoba.
Despite the one-year gap in talent projection, WHL scouts and GMs have done a pretty good job at No. 1 in recent history. Top selections of the past include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Derrick Pouliot and Jake Virtanen. The Chiefs picked first overall in 2006 and took future Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen.