Austin, Manitoba product Zak Smith is putting his best skate forward in Flin Flon. The forward has put up over a point per game this season and has just recently been named the SJHL's Flin Flon Bombers' team captain. Smith talks about his initial reaction to the news.
"It's a huge honour. When you look at Flin Flon, there's so much history here, and you see all the great captains before me, like Bobby Clarke," Smith explains. "At the same time, there are three or four other guys in the room that deserve it just as much as I do. You can't really let it take too much out of your game because you're just sitting closer to the coach in the team photo, that's what I've been saying."
Prior to this season, the 20-year-old played three full seasons in the Western Hockey League, where he participated in 163 games and put up a total of 53 points. Smith describes what he learned in the WHL that has helped him excel this season.
"I think a lot of it is just preparation. Keeping your body in tip-top shape is huge for the WHL because you're playing with some of the top junior players in the world," says Smith. "I think the other thing is acting like a professional on and off the ice. Not a lot of people understand that us junior hockey players are 16-20-years-old, but we still have to act like adults and lead the way for people coming into hockey. I think those are the two biggest things I learned from the WHL."
Smith says it can be a challenge having to grow up so fast at such a young age and notes that is one of the biggest things these players have to overcome early in their hockey journey. He notes he had to move two provinces away to play in Red Deer at 16-years-old and says one of the things that has helped him stay grounded over the last four years is staying away from social media as much as possible.
The Austin product currently places second on the Bombers in total points, with 32, as well as assists, where he only trails, former Portage Terrier, Reece Richmond. He says one of his main goals for the rest of the year is to play well enough to be able to continue his hockey career, either in U Sports or in a pro league.
While that is something Smith is working toward, he notes he his main goal this year is helping the Bombers go all the way.
"The number one goal is to win a championship, and we have the guys to do it," says Smith. "We have a lot of young guys that are eager to learn and want to win. I try to tell those younger guys that when you're 16, you don't really take the league seriously because you want to have fun, but when you're in your last year, you really want to win badly. I think that's the case for a lot of the 20-year-olds on the team, they want to win badly. I think that's going to be the goal for us, winning a championship."
Smith, and the Bombers, are currently one of the five best teams in the SJHL and are looking to make a strong push during the back half of this season.