July 14, 2011
MADISON, Wis. – With two years of collegiate eligibility remaining for the Wisconsin Badgers, forward Craig Smith will become a professional hockey player. The Madison, Wis., native is a 2009 fourth-round pick (98th overall) of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the team of former Badgers Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion.
“We’re excited for Craig,” said Head Coach Mike Eaves. “The window of opportunity to make a move like this is sometimes small. The landscape has changed with Nashville in that the team has changed somewhat with free agency. Smitty had every thought after a successful senior men’s World Championship to come back and play here at Wisconsin, but he feels like there is an opportunity now and he feels in his heart it is the right time to go.”
Smith, who was slated to be one of Wisconsin’s co-captains for the upcoming season, finished last year as the Badgers’ team leader with 19 goals. He ranked second on the team with 43 points in 41 games, while leading the squad with five game-winning tallies and 153 shots. He also took 31 penalties for 87 minutes. For his career, Smith finishes with 27 goals, 76 points and 159 penalty minutes in 82 games.
Smith skated for Team USA in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship where he posted three goals and six points in seven games, ranking second behind former Badger Derek Stepan for the team lead in scoring. His team-leading plus-2 helped the Americans reach the quarterfinals, where they fell to the Czech Republic.
Smith joins defenseman Jake Gardiner, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Jordy Murray, who left for Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the Swiss National League A (NLA), as early departures. Both Gardiner and Murray gave up one year of eligibility.