Smaby became the first U.S. high school player drafted by the Lightning when they took him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s. He was somewhat of a surprise second round selection as the Minneapolis native did not put up impressive numbers or ice time in his second year at S-SM, but that was due to having to play with a cast for most of the year because of a broken hand. Lightning scouts were impressed with the package Smaby offered of a big, mobile, hard-hitting character defenseman who can skate like a forward. Smaby participated in Team U.S.A.’s development camp in 2003 though he was not named to the American WJC squad.
The University of North Dakota landed Smaby and the big defenseman earned a regular shift as a freshman at UND, including ample penalty kill time. His +20 rating and 81 penalty minutes were among team leaders on the WCHA regular season champions.
The bruising defenseman had a rather uneventful start to his sophomore campaign, but as the season went on his overall play improved dramatically. Smaby’s improved play, particularly in the second half of the season was key in helping to lead the North Dakota Fighting Sioux all the way to the NCAA National Championship game. Smaby appeared in 44 of 45 games for UND this season, posting three points (one goal, three assists) and ranks second on the team in penalty minutes with 86. The lone game he missed this season was back on January 14th versus Colorado College. His lone goal of the season came back on November 26th versus Michigan Tech.
2007-08: The towering D-man played with the Lightning and the Norfolk Admirals (AHL) this season, using his size and speed to control the game. After a short 14 game stint with Tampa Bay, Smaby moved over to Norfolk, where he spent the remainder of the season. In 58 games he notched one goals and five assists, along with 66 minutes in the box.
Smaby compares in style to fellow Lightning prospects Mike Egener and Andy Rogers in his size, mobility, grit, and character. He quickly became known at UND for his monstrous hits and simple, mature defensive game. Because of his skating, Smaby has the ability to skate stride for stride with smaller forwards along the side wall and behind the net. WCHA forwards found out that they couldn't elude the shadowing big man by stopping and starting and trying to use their agility to their advantage. Smaby's passing skills weren't put to the test as he played in a somewhat limited role, but he has an adequate first pass out of the zone and better vision than the average stay-at-home defenseman. His shot is average at best and he rarely took the chance to join the rush from the backline though he has the speed to do so.
While Smaby isn’t likely to become much of an offensive threat, he is a constant defensive threat, shutting down opposing players with solid positional play and hard-hitting style.