Jake Smith (No. 14 in white) has turned from energetic support player to offensive driver for the 2016-17 Chilliwack Chiefs.

Jake Smith (No. 14 in white) has turned from energetic support player to offensive driver for the 2016-17 Chilliwack Chiefs.

Chilliwack Chiefs benefit from Jake Smith’s scoring surge

Jake Smith has made a massive leap from his first to his second BCHL season, becoming an offensive leader for the BCHL junior A club.

There may only be one person who saw the 2016-17 version of Jake Smith coming, and that’s Jake Smith.

Well, maybe his parents too.

But even the 20 year old forward is a bit surprised by the massive leap he’s taken this year.

In 56 games in 2015-16 the New York native collected eight goals and 25 points.

In 48 games this year he’s doubled that with 28 goals and 50 points.

He’s the 17th leading scorer in the BCHL coming into this weekend and he’s just one snipe behind Chiefs captain Jordan Kawaguchi (29 to 28) for Chilliwack’s goal-scoring lead.

Did he really see this coming?

“It all comes down to confidence and hitting 50 (points) was pretty big because that was my goal coming into this year,” Smith said. “I thought if I could do that, it would mean I was having a pretty great season.”

“I’m glad it’s worked out the way it’s worked out.”

As a rookie on the 2015-16 Chiefs, Smith looked around the locker room and was wise enough to know that Jordan Kawaguchi, Darien Craighead and Vimal Sukumaran had the ‘skill guy’ roles covered.

He wasn’t going to be deployed on offensive zone draws and he wasn’t going to see first-unit power play time. It’s a tough adjustment to make when you’re a star at the prep-school level, but credit Smith for self-awareness.

To make sure he was in the lineup every night, he morphed into a lunch-pail hard-hat sort.

“Deep down I knew I had it in me to be more of a skilled player, but you’ve got to be able to help your team anyway you can.”

But if you were really paying attention, you saw signs of Smith’s pending breakout late last season.

He seemed to be a far more dangerous player in the second half and into the playoffs, even if the numbers didn’t show it.

“I think it was after Christmas break last year that I started to come on as a little more of a force,” Smith said. “And once the playoffs started a switch flipped. I had a really hot start against Coquitlam and I just tried to keep it rolling.”

“I was playing a lot more in the playoffs and that’s when I realized I could play in this league.”

Smith went into the offseason with a game-plan.

He came back faster and stronger, and after going pointless in his first four games and goal-less in his first seven — boom!

The explosion.

If you pretend those first seven games didn’t happen, Smith has 28 goals and 48 points in 41 outings, an average of 1.17 points per game from Oct. 1 on.

“Getting faster and stronger has given me the ability to create separation from the defence and open up a little more room for myself,” Smith said. “I’m getting a step on guys and creating opportunities to shoot more.”

“And the strength comes in when I’m getting to the front of the net for loose pucks and not getting pushed around.”

Smith quietly put together one of the longest point streaks in the BCHL this season.

From Dec. 8 to Jan. 22, a 14 game stretch, he had 13 goals and 28 points.

Only Kawaguchi, with a 17 gamer, has gone longer, and it’s things like that that make it hard to believe Smith has yet to net an NCAA scholarship.

Had a program bought low on Smith last season they’d be applauded as clairvoyants now.

But he hasn’t committed anywhere yet.

“I’m in really good hands with coach (Jason) Tatarnic and coach (Kyle) Adams, and they’re really confident something will come soon,” Smith said. “They’re working hard for me and I’ve just to keep doing my thing on the ice.”

“I think it weighed on me more last year where this year I just came in with the mentality that whatever happens happens.”

“If it means division three I’m sure I’ll find a great home and a great education, and I really don’t think about it too much.”

“I’ll be happy with whatever the future holds.”

 

eric.welsh@theprogress.com