A cornerstone of the Predators' player development philosophy has long been that the road to Nashville runs through Milwaukee, a nod to the franchise's commitment to developing players in the minors.
There must be a spur on that road that runs to Madison.
The Predators announced officially Tuesday the signing of center Craig Smith to a two-year entry-level contract.
Smith, who turned pro after two years at Wisconsin, joins fellow former Badgers Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion in the Predators organization. Smith and Geoffrion were teammates on the 2010 Wisconsin team that finished as the NCAA runner-up.
Smith said he's looking forward to being reunited with Geoffrion, a collegiate teammate.
"We were constantly talking on the bench, on the ice and in the locker room, and I was working with him on a day-to-day basis. I'm really excited to get to work with him every day," he said.
Smith, a fourth-round pick of the Predators in 2009, led Team USA in goals at the 2011 World Championships and finished second on the team in points. The 21-year-old was one of just two underclassmen on the national team.
While Smith wouldn't pinpoint the championships as the factor that led him to making the jump to the NHL — he repeatedly emphasized leaving college wasn't "an overnight decision" — he did say it afforded him the opportunity to gauge his own development.
"The opportunity came to play in the World Championships and play against the most elite players in the league. That was huge. It was definitely a confidence booster," he said. " There's not a bunch of NCAA guys who could experience a pro environment like that. … It was a huge eyeopener for me to test myself."