(Photo courtesy NHL.com/University of North Dakota)

Former Piston Smith Cracks Predators Opening Day Lineup

Thursday, January 14, 2021 will go down as a date to remember forever for the Steinbach Pistons organization, as former Piston Cole Smith will be making his NHL debut tonight for the Nashville Predators.

Smith, who spent two seasons with the Steinbach Pistons from 2014-16, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Predators back on March 18th as a college free agent. The Brainerd, Minnesota native committed to the University of North Dakota from the Pistons in 2016 and spent four years with the Fighting Hawks, putting up 51 points in 137 career games for UND.

Smith becomes the first ever Steinbach Piston who played his final year of junior in Steinbach, and the first Pistons NCAA Division I commit, to dress in an NHL game when the Predators take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight in Nashville at 7:00 pm. He was announced yesterday as a part of the Taxi Squad for his team, but will draw into the lineup tonight where it is projected he will skate on the fourth line.

β€œIt brought out emotion I was not expecting,β€œ Head Coach/GM Paul Dyck said when he found out about Smith’s debut. β€œI could not be more proud of Cole for how he has continued to perservere and pursue his dream. He has been such a great example to younger players aspiring to reach higher levels. Today will be one of the most memorable days of his life and for that I am so excited.β€œ

The 25-year-old forward was a force for the Pistons in his two seasons in Steinbach, putting up 84 points in 92 career regular season games. His play elevated in the postseason as he produced nearly a point per game with 26 points in 27 playoff games, and was named the team playoff MVP in 2016.

Smith becomes the second player who previously played for the Pistons to play in an NHL game, joining defenceman Brett Lernout (6 games for Steinbach in 2011-12) who played with the Montreal Canadiens.

“It’s somewhat of an historic day for our organization as he is the first player that spent his entire junior career with us to go on and play in the NHL. Cole’s story is incredible and inspiring, and I believe there could be a few more chapters to add when it’s all said and done. I would never be a doubter when it comes to Cole.”

The Pistons organization congratulates Cole and his entire family on this astonishing accomplishment! Pistons Country will be cheering you on tonight!