By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The wait paid off for centre Colin Smith, but he came awfully close to being shut out again.
Smith, who is preparing for his fourth season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the seventh round of the NHL draft on Saturday, one year after he went through untouched.
In a draft in which 211 players were selected, he was No. 192.
“I was watching it,” Smith said. “It was nice once it happened.”
The Blazers ended up having two players taken, with Tim Bozon, who spent last season on the left wing alongside Smith, going to the Montreal Canadiens in the third round, 64th overall.
While Bozon was in Pittsburgh for the draft, Smith, who turned 19 on Wednesday, stayed at home in Edmonton.
“It was starting to get a little bit . . . yeah,” Smith said of the wait to be drafted. “To me, it’s not mattering that it was the seventh round; it’s just a foot in the door.”
As he said, now he “can go to work and try to prove to that one team” what he is capable of doing.
Smith was selected seventh overall by the Blazers in the WHL’s 2008 bantam draft. He has played three complete seasons with Kamloops, last season reaching career highs in goals (35), assists (50) and points (85).
In each of the last two summers, Smith was in camps run by his hometown Oilers; he attended their development camp once and also played for them at a prospects’ tournament in Penticton.
The Avalanche drafted five forwards on the weekend, four of them, like Smith, at 5-foot-11 or less. That, Smith said, is something that should work to his advantage.
“That’s exactly it,” he stated. “I just want to get my foot in the door.”
The Avalanche aren’t one of the NHL teams that will have a development camp in the next while, but Smith said the team is bringing in draft picks for testing early in July.
The Avalanche used a third-round pick on centre Troy Bourke of the Prince George Cougars. Smith doesn’t know Bourke — “Just from playing against him,” he said — but he does know goaltender Kieran Millan, a product of Boston University who was a Colorado draft pick in 2009 and signed last month. Millan is engaged to Smith’s sister.
“It’s a good fit,” Smith said. “It works out.”
Bozon, meanwhile, was quick to don a Canadiens’ sweater and cap before being interviewed.
“The hardest part is yet to come,” Bozon told Marc de Foy of Le Journal de Montreal, adding that being “drafted is not really what counts. Everyone starts at the same level.
“The important thing is to play in the NHL one day. “
Bozon was born in St. Louis when his father, Philippe, was playing for the Blues. Tim claims Lugano, Switzerland, as home, but has played internationally for France, twice suiting up in IIHF U-18 world championships.
If you want to refer to him as a French player, Bozon was the first player from France to be drafted in 11 years. On top of that, no Frenchman has been drafted earlier than 64th.
“I’m very happy,” Philippe told NHL.com. “I played my major junior hockey in St-Jean and I went to go watch the games at the (Montreal) Forum. It was my childhood dream, so to see Tim have a chance to be part of an organization that I would have liked to be a part of makes me very proud.”
Philippe, a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame, played for the QMJHL’s St-Jean Beavers (1984-87), who played out of a Montreal suburb.
The Canadiens know what they got in the Western Conference’s rookie of the year, who had 71 points, including 36 goals. Now they want him to get bigger and stronger.
“We know his strength and conditioning coach in Switzerland and his work ethic and commitment to his off-ice preparation is going extremely well this summer,” Trevor Timmins, the Habs’ director of procurement and player development, told Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette. “That’s key for him. He has to add size and strength but he has natural scoring ability.”
Kamloops left-winger Brendan Ranford wasn’t selected. He had been a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 but didn’t get an NHL contract, despite putting up 178 points, including 73 goals, in 137 games over the last two seasons.
Not being drafted makes Ranford, 20, a free agent and he is certain to land a tryout somewhere.
His agent, Mark MacKay, reported Sunday that there has been “a lot of interest . . . just waiting on a couple of clubs.”
Of course, a number of draft-eligible Blazers weren’t selected, but at least one of them survived with his sense of humour intact.
Later Saturday, defenceman Tyler Hansen, 19, tweeted:
“So happy the panthers took the chance on me and drafted me in the 8th round today #dreamcometrue.”
Of course, the draft was only seven rounds in length.
JUST NOTES: Philippe Bozon is between coaching gigs, having worked for Swiss teams in Geneva, Lugano and Sierre. Bob Hartley, the new head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, has coached in Switzerland and, yes, Bozon has applied for an assistant coaching position there. . . . Should Tim Bozon play for the Canadiens, he would become the second player from France to do so. The other? G Cristobal Huet (2005-08). . . . Huet, by the way, is a close friend of the Bozon family. . . . The OHL had 48 players selected, while 32 were from the WHL and 19 from the QMJHL. Of all players selected, 98 are Canadian and 56 from the U.S. Interestingly, those 56 players were spread throughout 17 states.
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