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Derek A. Smith signs two-year contract with Ottawa

Derek A. Smith

April 24, 2007

By LINDA BOUVET, LSSU Sports Information Director

SAULT STE. MARIE - Lake Superior State junior defenseman Derek A. Smith signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Ottawa Senators on April 12.

Smith, a finalist for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's Outstanding Offensive Defenseman Award, tied for the team lead in points with 30 (10 goals and 20 assists). He had a high-impact season after totaling a combined 3-12--15 during his first two seasons.

LSSU's top-scoring defenseman

"It took me a while to mature as a player, and my mental game got a lot better," Smith said. "The coaches prepared me well, and the rest of the team having a good year definitely helped out a lot."

With the exception of a six-game scoring drought in January, Smith was a steady point scorer throughout the season. He registered a point in four out of six playoff games, including three assists in the Lakers' season finale against Michigan State. Coach Jim Roque noted early on that Smith's weight-training program last summer paid big dividends.

Expectations of Smith increased as the 2006-07 season progressed. He finished second in the CCHA and 18th nationally in points per game by a defenseman.

"It was nice having that pressure on me," he said. "I had a great time. You have to thrive off of it. When you're out there at the end of the year, everybody wants that opportunity. You have to make the most of it."

Smith's early departure is a bittersweet situation for the Lakers, who reached the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena for the first time in 11 years. Although fans were enthusiastic about his senior-year potential, they are equally thrilled to know that LSSU has quality players worthy of receiving too-good-to-turn-down professional contracts.

Smith was also recruited by Boston's organization.

"I thought about coming back," he said. "I was leaning toward Boston, but like the way Ottawa develops young players, and they have a good team every year. I thought it was a good opportunity, and it felt like the right time."

After finishing the school year, Smith will return home to Belleville, Ont., and work with his trainer, Jason Supryka of One to One Fitness. He has spent at least part of each summer working with Supryka. He hopes to be bigger and stronger when he heads to Ottawa's training camp in the fall.

"I have no idea when camp starts," Smith said. "I have bigger things to worry about right now."

Smith is devoting his last few weeks at LSSU to catching up on classwork and studying for final exams. He also wants to make the most of his time with his teammates. He doesn't appear to be heading into this new era of his career with a false sense of complacency, which is precisely why he has caught the NHL's attention.

"I will need to be able to rebound from mistakes and play consistently," Smith said of the keys to success in professional hockey. "You have to bring you're A-game every night, or else you're not playing."

Smith hopes his good fortune speaks to the renewed spirit of Laker Hockey.

"What's great about this organization is that a lot of people have been working hard here for 20 or 30 years to build this tradition," Smith said. "We are getting better - back to where we were. There are still a lot of great players here, and they need to make the most of their chance to play college hockey."

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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