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NHL: Smith lights lamp for 1st NHL goal

Brainerd Warrior graduate Cole Smith gets first NHL goal

Cole Smith scores a goal in the NHL
Nashville Predators left wing Cole Smith (36) and center Cody Glass (8) celebrate after a win against the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Cole Smith went to bed with a smile on his face Saturday, Jan. 21.

The former Brainerd Warrior and current Nashville Predators forward recorded his first NHL goal in a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings Saturday.

Smith’s goal came at the 16:10 mark of the third period to make it 5-3. It was assisted on by Roman Josi and Juuso Parssinen.

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“It was extremely exciting and extremely rewarding,” Smith said. “I wish it would’ve come a little sooner, but kind of a testament to grinding away and it finally came and it was pretty fulfilling. I had a smile on my face when it happened and I don’t think it left until I went to bed.”

Predators’ head coach John Hynes said in a press conference after the game Saturday it was long overdue for Smith to get his first goal.

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“The big thing I take away from it is if you look at the reaction on the bench,” he said. “When a guy like that scores and you get the reaction from the team, that shows how much value (he has), how well liked he is, how respected he is."

Smith said the next day he was able to reflect a little bit on netting his first-career goal.

“It’s been a long journey from the outdoor rink back home,” he said. “To be able to get one at the professional level, it means a lot and there are a lot of people who impacted it. There were numerous people who reached out and that’s the coolest part is how many people are watching back home. Everyone who reached out, it means a lot and I texted them that I appreciate it.”

Saturday marked the 49th career NHL game for Smith in three seasons. He’s appeared in 40 of Nashville’s 46 games in the 2022-23 season. He’s recorded nine assists to go along with his lone goal with around 12 minutes of ice time a game.

Smith spent most of the previous two seasons in the American Hockey League, which is the NHL’s development league.

He played in 59 games last season for the Milwaukee Admirals and recorded 21 goals and 20 assists in the regular season, which made him fourth on the team in points. In the playoffs last year for the Admirals, he scored three goals and dished out two assists.

This season, he made the Predators’ roster right out of training camp and the only time he’s missed has been due to injury.

“Coming into camp I knew I had a shot,” Smith said. “I played some pretty good hockey in camp and just kept going, was able to make the team and obviously that’s not where it ends. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in the lineup and it’s been an awesome ride so far this year.”

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Smith is one of two players from Brainerd currently in the NHL. Josh Archibald is in his eighth season in the NHL and currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The two Brainerd Warriors will share the ice together in the NHL Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“It’ll be pretty special,” Smith said. “We didn’t play together in high school, but we have trained and worked together. We know each other really well and it’ll be a cool experience. We have some family together and two Brainerd boys playing at the NHL level will be pretty cool.”

This summer, Smith helped run the Lakes Hockey Academy with Mitch McLain and Joey Frazer, which was at the Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd last July.

“Anyway you can give back to the community where you are established is huge,” Smith said. “As a young kid, there is always someone you want to look up to and to be that example for some kids you never know what kind of impact you have in their life. And to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, I think it is super important especially in a small town like that. It’s a cool thing Mitch has done with that camp and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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