He shoots, and he scores.
If you know nothing else about Steelheads forward Austin Smith, you need to know he can score goals.
"He's got that swagger of a goal scorer," teammate Rylan Galiardi said. "A guy like that, you just try to get the puck to him and hope he shoots it."
He led the NCAA in scoring with 36 goals last year as a senior at Colgate.
He came into the Steelheads' against the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday with 23 goals in 28 games. That total put him among the ECHL's leaders, but even more impressive is Smith's goals-per-game average. None of those league leaders is scoring at a more rapid pace (.82 goals per game). Two of the players he was tied with took more than twice as many games (61) to score 23 goals.
True to form, Smith added a goal in Idaho's 5-3 win Friday.
"He's a heck of a player," Idaho coach Brad Ralph said. "His performance has been second to none when he's been here."
And that brings us to the other half of Smith's rookie season. He has split time between the ECHL and the AHL. When he's been here (Idaho), he's been a scoring sensation. When he's been there (Texas), his scoring has fallen off considerably. He has scored two goals in 16 games with the Stars of the AHL.
Astute hockey fans know players serve different roles at different levels. Still, it would probably be fair to assume that Smith wishes he'd been given more opportunities at the next level this season.
"It's fair to say that," Smith said, respectfully declining to discuss the issue further.
While he's in Idaho, all Ralph can ask of Smith is that he put in the work it takes to improve.
"He's willing to learn and narrow that gap between the AHL and the ECHL," Ralph said. "So I've got nothing but positive things to say about Austin."
One negative thing that people have said about Smith is that he's too small.
"It kind of pissed me off when I got that stereotype," said Smith, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. "It kind of bothers me, but it also pushes me. If I get knocked down by someone who's 220 pounds, I get right back up. I'm quick, I'm agile, and I honestly think I can play at this size. You see plenty of players in the NHL that play at this size.
"I obviously want to keep striving to put on a little more size, whether it' s in the summer or whatever. But I don't think it's anything that's going to hold me back."
Ralph agrees with that, to a point.
"He's gifted with the puck, he's a fast skater, he's agile east to west," Ralph said. "So he can make up for his size."
"I'd like to see 10, 15 pounds on him, for sure," Ralph said. "With his height, he can certainly play at that weight. It will be hard work for him. He's not naturally a thick guy, but you've got to be able to play against 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensemen. At the NHL and AHL level, those guys are tough, and you can't always go around them. Sometimes you have to go through them."
The size issue aside, what Ralph thinks Smith needs more than anything is patience.
"Everyone has a process they need to go through," Ralph said. "With time, I certainly think he can play at higher levels."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424