Brian Burke promised truculence when he arrived as the Flames’ president of hockey ops, and truculence he delivered. Although it’s a bit murky as to whether it was him or Feaster/Treliving calling the shots, in his first year the Flames added, through various means, Ladi Smid, Lane MacDermid, Kevin Westgarth, Deryk Engelland, Bryce van Brabant, Brandon Bollig, and Hunter Smith.
The final name, our subject for today, was a second round draft pick in the 2014 draft. Smith, having put up a so-so season as a 19-year-old (albeit much younger relative to other 2013 draft eligibles), was mostly drafted for being 6’7″.
And to this date, he has consistently been 6’7″. As for other aspects of hockey? Mixed reviews.
Smith started his OHL career as a Windsor Spitfire, lasting 15 games and scoring one point with the organization before being traded to the Oshawa Generals prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, his draft year. His first year with the Generals did not go so well. He struggled with injuries for parts of the year, and when he wasn’t injured, he was healthy scratched, unable to crack a deep lineup. As a result, he only had one assist in 30 regular season games. He went undrafted in his first go around.
Smith’s second year with the organization was slightly more successful. Given a bigger role, he scored 40 points in 64 regular season games and 11 in 12 playoff games. That got the interest of the scouts, and he earned a second round selection, 54th overall, in the 2014 entry draft. His final season with Oshawa was a slight improvement, scoring 49 points in 57 games and 18 in 19 OHL playoff games. The Generals won the OHL championship and the Memorial Cup.
In his first AHL season, Smith contributed eight points in 54 games as a fourth liner.
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Smith remained a fourth liner all year, slotting in with fellow pugilists Mike Angelidis and Jamie Devane most often. That could be used as evidence that Smith was never in a situation to succeed offensively, but none of his underlying metrics suggest that he is poised for a breakout. He only had 32 shots this year, or 0.94/game, on the lower end of what we could consider fourth line production.
The majority of Smith’s scoring came in December during a streak where he scored eight points in 12 games. Otherwise, he was invisible. An upper body injury (from a fight, natch) held him out from February onwards.
Just as it was three short years ago, it’s still baffling that the Flames picked Smith.
The key contingency on drafting Smith in the second round was the thought that his offence would improve with age; three scouting services ranked him in the top 100 for the 2014 draft based on this. Despite his 19-year-old numbers suggesting that this was a major stretch, the Flames went for it and were unsurprisingly let down. It’s hard to say that his offence didn’t follow him to the AHL when said offence didn’t exist in the first place.
There was very little to suggest that he would do much at the professional level other than be tall and occasionally throw fists. There aren’t many other Flames prospects that are 6’7″ (Stepan Falkovsky is another 6’7″ prospect and he scored 20 goals this year from the blueline), but there are many who can do the same job he does, but better. He’s still only 21 and has one more year to state his case (just for a second contract. I will eat my hat if he’s in serious contention for an NHL roster spot), but it’s still a long way for him just to be close to the NHL.
It’s not very promising when one of your most memorable moments is this:
(Perhaps this is a little bit unfair, but I just wanted to include this video.)
Jon Gillies, Andrew Mangiapane, Emile Poirier, Austin Carroll, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Rasmus Andersson, Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, Stepan Falkovsky, Keegan Kanzig/Mason McDonald, Ryan Culkin/Brett Pollock, Mitchell Mattson, Adam Fox, Brandon Hickey, Riley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison