Spokane, Wash. — The Spokane Chiefs are proud to announce that defenseman Ty Smith has been awarded the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as Western Hockey League Defenseman of the Year for the 2019-20 season. It marks the second-straight season the Chiefs’ team captain has captured the honor and only fourth time in league history a single player has won twice.
After an extended preseason stay with the New Jersey Devils — who selected him in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft — Smith rejoined the Chiefs in early October, earning WHL Player of the Week honors in his first opportunity back after racking up six points (3G-3A) in three games.
The two-time captain continued to log heavy minutes and match up against the opposition’s best players, recording four goals and 13 assists before departing to represent Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. Smith was honored as an alternate captain at the tournament, helping guide the Canadians to their 18th gold medal and third in the last six years.
Upon return from World Juniors, Smith’s production took off. In 25 games from his first game back on Jan. 10 through the end of the season, he torched the league for 42 points (15G-27A) and a +34 rating, being held off the scoresheet just five times. In total, the Lloydminster, Alta. product finished with 59 points (4th among WHL defensemen) on 19 goals (3rd) and 40 assists (7th) while going plus-49 (3rd among all WHL skaters). He recorded 16 multi-point efforts including six with three or more.
Highlighting the season was his February 28 performance versus Seattle, during which Smith broke his own franchise record for points in a game by a defenseman with eight, including his first career hat trick and five assists. It was just the fifth hat trick by a blueliner in Chiefs history and tied Smith’s mark from 2018 (2G-5A vs. Prince George on Feb. 23) for most assists by a defenseman in a single game.
Among other Chiefs single season defenseman records, his 2019-20 totals rank 11th in goals, t-22nd in assists and 17th in points.
The first-overall pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, Smith is likely destined to play professional hockey next season. He leaves Spokane with 240 career regular season games played, good for 42nd in franchise history. His 235 points rank 18th, one behind former teammate and co-captain Jaret Anderson-Dolan. He ranks behind only Brenden Kichton (268) in overall scoring by a defenseman.
A master at setting up his teammates, Smith’s 190 assists rank fourth in franchise history among all skaters, behind Ray Whitney (207), Kichton (201) and Pat Falloon (194). Former teammate and current Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto now sits at 5th with 186 (tied with 2008 Memorial Cup champion Mitch Wahl).
He won the same award last year, on his way to being named CHL Defenseman of the Year. Kichton (2012-13) is the only other Chief to secure the WHL honor and Smith is the only Chief to ever win the CHL award, given to the top rearguard from the WHL, Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) combined.
He is also only the fourth player ever to win the WHL Defenseman of the Year award twice, joining Kris Russell (Medicine Hat; 2005-06 and 06-07), Dion Phaneuf (Red Deer; 03-04 and 04-05) and Nolan Baumgartner (Kamloops; 1994-95 and 95-96).
Smith was one of two Chiefs named finalists for WHL Awards this season. Forward Adam Beckman is the Western Conference’s nominee for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, given annually to the league’s Player of the Year. That award is scheduled to be announced on Thursday.
Smith was chosen over Eastern Conference Defenseman of the Year Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
About the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Bill Hunter is honored for his role as a founder and builder of the League. Hunter served as Owner, General Manager and Coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings, while also serving as the first Chairman of the Board. Without a doubt, Bill Hunter was the driving force that kept the WHL in the forefront of Major Junior Hockey in Canada during his years as the “Godfather” of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
It goes without saying that Major Junior Hockey has never seen an individual as dedicated and enthusiastic as the man known as the “Fiery Red Leader”, who along with his long time friend, the late Scotty Munro, were “the WHL” in its formative years.