Towering sophomore defenseman and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Matt Smaby enjoyed a solid season with the University of North Dakota, helping to guide the Fighting Sioux to their NCAA-record 12th NCAA national championship appearance.
Smaby had three points this season (one goal, two assists) playing in all 44 games for North Dakota this season. He finished the season second on the team in penalty minutes with 86.
Smaby spoke with Hockey’s Future after North Dakota’s practice on Wednesday during the Frozen Four at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
HF: Being a sophomore, this is your first Frozen Four. What’s it like to be here?
MS: Oh, it’s awesome! I remember watching the Frozen Four in middle school and just thinking about being here. To finally get here is just an unreal experience. So I’m going to take it all in, have fun and just have a great time.
HF: You guys went through a lot of adversity this season. How much of a factor was that in helping you guys get here?
MS: I think the adversities actually helped us. We lost some tough games this year, particularly early in the year. That helped us learn about ourselves. We’ve been fighting through injuries all year and just found ways to get it done. We’re competing hard every night, keeping it simple and just playing our game. All of that got us here.
HF: A defenseman that keeps it simple and plays an at-home style — would you say that that’s a fairly good description of your game?
MS: Yeah. I’m a defensive defenseman. If I can contribute offensively then it’s a bonus. My main priority is to keep the puck of the net, so it’s pretty simple.
HF: What do you feel is the best thing that you bring to the team?
MS: My size and my mobility. I’m pretty mobile for a big guy. I think that really helps. I can skate with some of the faster guys and still play physically. I think that combination is the best attribute that I feel that I bring to the team.
HF: What do you feel are areas in your game that you’ll need to improve for next season?
MS: There’s room for improvement everywhere.
HF: Is there any one specific area?
HF: When you found out that the Tampa Bay Lightning had drafted you, what was your initial reaction?
MS: Oh, it was great. It was very exciting; I really can’t put it into words. I went to draft and was just looking to have fun and take in the experience. Next thing I know, they’re calling my name. It’s so exciting because this is everything that you work for. I still have a long way to go in my development but it was really, really exciting.
HF: Have had any contact with the Lightning this season?
MS: We chat but it’s just them asking me how I’m doing, nothing really serious.
HF: Have they been keeping tabs on you?
MS: Yeah, they’ve been around Engelstad Arena to see the games and I’ll say hello if I see them but other than that I just focus on my game.
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