TAMPA (FOX 13) - Mitchell High School's Nathan Smith walks alone as the Bay Area's first and only homegrown high school hockey talent to be drafted into the NHL.
Smith was selected by the Winnipeg Jets 91st overall (3rd round) in last month's draft. His success could open the door for more sunshine state hockey talent.
"I'm glad I can be an inspiration to these younger guys," said Smith during his workout at Clearwater Ice Arena. "I'm always here to guide them and help them, teach them in any way that I can. There is definitely good kids, up-and-coming kids, who have some high talent. I think they can do some good things and get to the next level, college and hopefully the NHL."
The Winnipeg Jets have high hopes for this 19-year old, who they believe is a late bloomer. Still, Smith has already accomplished a lot, helping lead Mitchell to the USA Hockey National Championship as a junior.
"Winning the high school championship, and I actually won a double-A championship in nationals, back then it was huge. Now I look back at it and it's nice because all of those players now, some of them don't play hockey, some of them are just going to school, some of them do play hockey. I'm good friends still to this day," he said.
Recovering from an ankle injury prevented Nathan from getting the full experience at the Jets' Development Camp. He's looking forward to his next trip north of the border.
"It definitely wasn't a good feeling, but I know this is only a short-term thing with my ankle," said Smith. "I know it will be better soon and I'll be good as new soon here in a few months. So hopefully next year for Development Camp I can be healthy and skate again."
Nathan's plan is to return to the USHL for next season and then go on to play college for Minnesota State, unless the Jets sign him to a professional contract sooner. Either way, Nathan is working tirelessly towards his NHL debut.