All Roads Lead To Boston

Hometown Roots Run Deep For NTDP’s Will Smith


It wasn't that long ago that Will Smith was a young centerman playing for the Boston Jr. Eagles. Now, he’s about to begin his second year with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program before embarking on collegiate career with the full grown birds at Boston College.


Smith, a native of Lexington, Mass., fondly remembers his nine years playing with the Jr. Eagles.


“The Boston Jr. Eagles organization really helped get to where I am,” Smith said. “I think it’s pretty special that I stayed with that program for nine years because a lot of guys move around in those youth years to three or four different teams. Kent Hughes, who’s now the general manager for Montreal, was my coach and he was a huge part of making those years what they were for me.”


Smith also spent one year with St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Mass., before packing his bags and heading to Plymouth, Mich. to skate on the NTDP. The 17-year-old played his first 35 games with the U17 team, and tallied 37 points (17G, 20A), before being called up to the U18 team, where he finished the 2021-22 season and recorded 25 points (14G, 11A) in just as many games.


“It was kind of tough leaving St. Sebastian’s with all my friends, and that was a type of brotherhood kind of similar to NTDP where there’s a good core of all different types of people,” he recalled. “But I’ve been very happy both places. The U18 team really took us in. It didn’t even feel like we were on a different team. And as we were playing more games, it would just carry on like we were another ’04.”


Additionally, Smith’s mother moved to Plymouth, which helped ease the transition. Also joining Smith was Will Vote, who’s been a teammate essentially from the start of his hockey career.


“Will came to the Eagles with me for about six years,” Smith said. “And ever since then we’ve been together the entire time. We’re at NTDP together, we live together in Michigan and he’s also going to BC. It’s a special thing that we’ve been together for so long. We live five minutes from each other back home too, so we always talk about our chemistry because we’re always around each other.”


Aside from Vote, Smith said there are several guys from Minnesota and Boston – yeah, that’s gonna work – on the team, and that the geographical diversity is an aspect he really enjoys about playing for the NTDP.


“We have we have a little bit of everything,” said Smith. “We’ve got a guy from Texas, one from Wisconsin, we’ve got guys from all over the country, which is good. The team is awesome. Everyone’s different, everyone loves each other and we all like to compete against each other, so it’s a good bond we have.”


Those bonds has led to some of Smith’s favorite memories playing in the USA jersey, like winning the 2021 Four Nations Tournament in Vaasa, Finland, where he tallied five points (2G, 3A) in three games.


“I love being with the guys on the road, on the bus, in the hotel and just being kids and hanging out,” he said. “The NTDP has been great. I had a great experience last year getting to travel all over the world, win some championships, play against some colleges and just being around our team. The whole year was great.”


And as Smith looks ahead, he has a number of goals set for himself, all of which start with winning gold at U18 Worlds.


“Everyone at USA Hockey sacrifices a ton for us and they give us a give us the best of everything and we want to reciprocate that with winning a gold medal,” Smith explained. “Representing the U.S. well in tournaments in the future, such as World Juniors and beyond, is really important to me.”


While Smith is excited for the coming year with the NTDP, there’s part of him that can’t wait to step onto the Chestnut Hill campus and follow in the footsteps of 13 of his relatives who proudly call themselves BC alumni.


“I can’t wait to play for BC,” he said. “I have pictures of me in a BC jersey when I was about 3 years old. I always looked up to my grandfather and my dad, who both went there. I made a promise to my grandfather when he was passing away that I was going to go there, so I want to follow in his footsteps and make him proud.”


So far, so good.


Caleigh Burchfield is the 2022-23 Brian Fishman Fellow.

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