Bradley, Smart inspired by taste of NHL
Matt Bradley would like to think his brief flirtation with the Minnesota Wild could lead to a longerterm relationship.
The 20-year-old centre will be playing for an NHL contract when he begins the 2017-18 WHL season with the Regina Pats, who acquired him on May 22 from the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Bradley warmed up for his final junior campaign by joining the Wild at an NHL rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich. The five-day competition ended Tuesday, but Bradley hopes it’s just the start of his affiliation with the club.
“Any team would be a dream come true but things are going good with them right now; if they continue, that would be awesome,” said Bradley, who had one goal in three games with Minnesota as a free-agent invitee. “They showed a lot of interest right off the bat. I got my fair share of playing time (in Traverse City) and they trusted me with special teams a bit so that was really nice. I got a lot of good feedback. They’re going to be here lots watching (this season). It was just an all-around great experience.”
Bradley went to camp previously with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL draft. The club decided not to sign him this summer, making him a free agent.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Bradley. “They have what they’re looking for and I guess I just didn’t really fit into the picture. It’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of other teams out there.”
Those teams are sure to be watching as Bradley begins his journey in Regina, the host city for the 2018 Memorial Cup. The opportunity to play deep into the spring could lead to some muchneeded exposure for players with pro aspirations.
“It’s a big year; there’s going to be a lot of spotlight on us,” said Bradley. “It’s my last year of junior so everything is on the line. I’m pretty lucky to be traded to a team like this for my last year. I’m surrounded by a bunch of great players. Hopefully they’ll be able to make me better as well as me making them better.”
Those sentiments also apply to Pats defenceman Jonathan Smart, who recently spent some time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smart wasn’t selected in the 2017 NHL draft but the Leafs quickly stepped up and invited him to their summer development camp, followed by a rookie tournament last weekend in Toronto.
“It was fun,” said Smart, 18, who played in one game versus Montreal. “It’s not quite the real deal but it was pretty surreal wearing that jersey. It’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Beyond the novelty factor, Smart also believes he benefited as a player.
“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “It was cool to see how fast the game is played at that level. (He also witnessed) how professional a lot of those guys are, just their everyday routines and how they treat their bodies. It’s amazing to see and something you really want to take back here and teach to the younger guys.”
Smart is hoping his relationship with the Leafs will continue but there’s no guarantee as he looks to re-enter the draft pool in 2018.
Regardless, he plans on putting the experience to good use.
“I’m just going to take what they gave me and come back here and play my best and play with a chip on my shoulder and see where it takes me,” added Smart, whose team concludes the pre-season on Saturday night in Prince Albert. “It’s a big year for me. I think I have a lot to prove. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win. If the team is winning, that means I’m having success. It comes hand in hand.”
Centre Matt Bradley is back with the Regina Pats after attending rookie camp with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild as a free-agent invitee.