Arizona Coyotes Pulled off a Steal When They Traded for Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith could log big minutes this season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Nathan Smith could log big minutes this season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong pulled off two sneaky good transactions this past trade deadline, acquiring centers Nathan Smith and Jack McBain. Nathan Smith originally a 2018 third round pick by the Winnipeg Jets, and Jack McBain also a 2018 third round pick by the Minnesota Wild.

Typically third round picks are not hyped by the media but these players have developed at the collegiate level since being originally drafted. The time spent maturing and developing their game has paid off for both players, specifically Nathan Smith. Last season Smith was one of the most effective college players scoring 19 goals, 31 assists, 50 points and 43 penalty minutes in 38 games this season with Minnesota State (NCAA). Those numbers were good for second in the NCAA in scoring, and made him a Hobby Baker finalist.

In case you missed last season, the Minnesota State Mavericks advanced to  the Frozen Four Final, falling to the Denver Pioneers. Their spectacular season and tournament run was large in part to the play of Smith.

Was Smith really that good? You betcha (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Look at the body of work and understand what type of player the Coyotes acquired on March 21, 2022. Armstrong got the Coyotes a solid two-way player who can score goals and be a leader. I am not going to flat-out compare Smith to Jonathan Toews but there are shades of Toews to his game (he looks nothing like Toews physically, he’s actually closer to a combination of Jake Busey and William Zabka from Cobra Kai).

He has great hands, quick feet, and can play a 200 foot game. In his ten game preview with the Coyotes last season, Smith scored 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points and 26 hits. Not too shabby for a kid brought in at the end of the year to “see what he can do”.

With all of the names being thrown around this offseason Smith has been kind of an afterthought in what soon could be a team loaded with young talent. As a center he won 58% of his faceoffs in his final season with Minnesota State (329/572), something that the Coyotes are going to depend on heavily.

I love the fact that he had 26 hits in 10 games.

Smith has eventually been the leading scorer on every team he has played on (River Ridge and Mitchell High-High School Florida, Cedar Rapids USHL, and Minnesota State NCAA).

He recently participated in the Coyotes Development Camp at Ice Den Scottsdale. Coyotes’ fans should be excited about Smith and should anticipate major advances in his game between now and the start of the regular season. For players like Smith the team playing home games in front of 5,000 fans could actually be a blessing in disguise as most home games for the team will very much have the NCAA feel to them. This will allow Smith to focus on his game and limit the transitional period from NCAA to NHL game feel.

Fans should know this; what Smith accomplished at the NCAA level is incredibly special. Average players do not do what he has done. Should his skill set continue to develop and he is able to thrive at the NHL level, Bill Armstrong will have pulled off one of the biggest steals via trade in recent memory. My fingers are crossed that I am correct on this.

Happy Howlin’!