Building the Herd – Josh Smith

#?? Joshua Smith

Position: Forward

Born: Frimley, Surrey

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 17th August

Basingstoke Bison head coach Doug Sheppard has sealed the deal and completed the 2017/18 roster with the capture of forward Joshua Smith from the Bracknell Bees.

19 year old Smith is a product of the ever prevalent Bracknell junior system and 2017/18 will be his first season of hockey away from the Hive.

After appearing for England in the Quebec International Peewee Tournament, Smith started with the under 16 Stingers in 2011/12 scoring 14 points in 9 games. It was the start of a very prolific scoring career in junior hockey for Smith as for the rest of his junior career he would regularly play for at least two teams within the Bracknell system.

The following season Smith split time between the under Stingers where he scored 52 points in 19 games and making his debut for the under 18 Drones where he tallied 13 goals and 23 points in 15 games.

The following year 2013/14 saw Smith ice for three Bracknell sides in the one campaign; he had another 50 point year with the Stingers, a 33 point campaign with the Drones as well as the national title and made his senior hockey debut for the Hornets scoring a goal and an assist in 8 games.

The following year saw another three team split as Smith was named alternate captain of the Drones with 21 points in 12 games which he combined with a double foray into senior hockey. Smith played 22 games each for the Hornets and Bees with 21 points at NIHL level and 1 goal and 1 assist in the EPL.

Those efforts were enough to earn Smith a full time Bees contract the last two seasons. Whilst financially the Bees have struggled and not challenged at the top half of the table, Smith carved himself a niche as a productive third line forward with 8 goals and 16 points in 15/16 and 6 goals and 12 points in 16/17 in a season where he was limited to 39 games.

Last season saw Josh appear for GB under 20s tallying 0 points and 2 penalty minutes in the 5 games.

So, it is done. The roster for the Bison’s assault on the NIHL is complete. Some people will ponder this as a last signing and wonder why the Bison didn’t arguably go out with a bigger bang but this is a very Doug Sheppard signing; a somewhat understated announcement of a hard working forward. The “big name” returnees were already announced and the Bison are never generally ones to hold onto big names they have signed for very long.

Instead the final member of the roster really does smack of the sort of side that Doug Sheppard tries to build. It’s a team that’s meant to be more than the sum of its parts. Sheppard signs guys to fit the style he wants the team to play, that will work with the group and will ultimately achieve the goals of winning silverware. Remember when Sheppard chose to sign Rene Jarolin over Frankie Bakrlik when both were on the market?

Josh Smith is a hard worker with a bit of attacking upside and for me, slips nicely onto the Bison’s 3rd line to start the campaign. I’ve already tried knocking together some basic line combinations on the backs of envelopes (jokes about line shuffling not withstanding) and at the moment I envisage on the wing of a third line with Dan Lackey clearing the way on the other wing and Jaroslav Cesky being the setup man. That requires both Smith and Lackey to have decent two way game because with all the will in the world, Jaroslav Cesky isn’t known for his two way play.

The other option on the wings is to stick Smith on a wing with Grant Rounding and a centre like Tomas Karpov for a real speed and scoring attacking threat. I lean towards the former of those predictions but Smith certainly has value in a variety of positions. I expect to see the odd bit of penalty killing from him as well.

The hope is that Smith finds someone who he can work with and add a bit of that scoring touch that he had in juniors to his game at a senior level. One thing that Doug Sheppard has always been good at is giving younger players a chance and responsibility. It’s happened more and more with Basingstoke trained youngsters but he’s never been afraid to look to players elsewhere to give that chance. We don’t need to rattle off the names again, they’re well known. Smith has an opportunity to be one of those players and to make his mark in a title challenging team. Now we know he’s the last addition, it’s time to get really excited.

Welcome to the Herd, Josh. Also thanks for being the token ginger now Ciaran has left.

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