To many, 22-year old Reilly Smith was merely a throw-in in the July 4th deal that saw the Boston Bruins send Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Matt Fraser and Smith. He was a player that would simply add depth to an already loaded organization.
The big prize was obviously Eriksson, a solid, two-way forward that can produce 30 goals, getting Eriksson in a B’s uniform just made sense and putting him on a line with Patrice Bergeron made even more sense when you consider their identical styles of play.
Morrow is an intriguing prospect on defense who adds more youth to the back end and he bolsters the organization’s already pretty good depth at the position.
Fraser is a big-bodied winger who showed a knack for scoring at the AHL level and it was all but assumed he would set up shop on the B’s third line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. Fraser’s body and shot mixed with Soderberg’s playmaking ability and Kelly’s two-way game sounded like a good line but Reilly Smith had other plans.
Last year during the lockout, Smith tallied 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in 45 games for the Texas Stars (Dallas’ AHL affiliate). That kind of production will get you noticed and it earn the youngster a spot on the big club once the lockout ended.
Playing a bottom-6 role for Dallas, Smith wasn’t able to do much but he showed flashes while scoring 3 goals and adding 6 assists in 37 games. Obviously not jaw-dropping numbers for an NHL player but it was a learning experience for Smith and I believe it helped him find himself and his game.
I must admit, I myself am guilty of not knowing much about Smith and I didn’t take him very seriously at first, but the more I saw him play during this past preseason the more he impressed me and obviously he impressed the B’s brass as well as it was Smith who opened the regular season on the third line and not Fraser who basically fell by the wayside. His play hasn’t diminished at all so far during the regular season and in fact he’s impressed me more and more with each passing game. I also did some research on Smith after the trade and saw nothing but good things being said about the kid coming out of Texas.
When fans and sportswriters are mourning the loss of a relative unknown it forces you to take notice and after scoring his first goal of the season (also the game winner) last night, Smith made us all take notice incase you hadn’t when he was promoted to a line with Bergeron and Eriksson while a struggling Brad Marchand was demoted to 3rd line duties until further notice.
At 6’0″, 160 lbs, Smith is hardly a physically imposing player but that doesn’t stop him from going into the corners, winning board-battles or driving hard to the net, that makes him difficult to play against and thats exactly how the Bruins want to be. He plays a very hard and blue-collar game, which obviously fits the Bruins mold easily, and I can’t say I’ve seen him take a single shift off. He plays every shift like it could be his last, because technically it could be. Couple that with his playmaking ability and his growing confidence and you have yourself quite the hockey player.
He’s quickly becoming a personal favorite of mine and anyone following us on Twitter or Facebook last night saw me mention that about an hour before his game winning goal (which helped me feel like maybe sometimes I know what I’m talking about, just sometimes).
For now it appears as though the sky is the limit for Smith and if he keeps playing the way he has been then Marchand may become a permanent fixture on the 3rd line which isn’t exactly a terrible thing, especially with Carl Soderberg close to returning. In fact, I think the emergence of Smith makes the Bruins a better and deeper team than they were last season. Not bad for a “throw-in”.