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Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Prospect wrap-up: Hunter Smith

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.

Brief history

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.

2016-17 performance

GP-G-A-P Primary points 5v5 P1 NHLe
34-3-8-11 9 8 12.73

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.

Final thoughts

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.)

Previously

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 HickeyRiley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison

  • freethe flames

    Well at least it is an article about hockey. The Flames need to have guys to fill the AHL team again next year and that will be Smith’s job. Hopefully the organization has learned it’s lesson about drafting skill over size in the top end of the draft. At least we know that at this moment BT won’t waste his 2nd rounder on a Smith project; that’s because we don’t have a second rounder; here’s hoping that Lazar pans out.

  • Worst part of the Smith pick was Brandon Montour was taken immediately after by the Ducks at 55. He scored 12 goals and 57 pts as a rookie defender in the AHL. That’s more points than Smith has managed in his pro career (19).

    • Just.Visiting

      Yup, albeit Smith was taken at 54 (MacDonald was at 34). Those young Anaheim D looked great….For context, Christian Dvorak was taken at 58, Brayden Point at 79 and Viktor Arvidsson at 112. A fun series of articles going into the drafts would be to look at how the Flames have drafted over time back to the 1990s and what was on the table for the pick. It would be quite depressing until recently, of course, but it would be interesting..

    • supra steve

      That ship has sailed. We can’t go back and exchange Smith for Montour (or someone even better…Dvorak?), we can’t swap Janko for Maatta (and we may not even want to in a year or two), we can’t swap Ferland for Brendan Gallagher, and we can’t swap Bennett for Draisaitl (because, well…that’s just silly, there are rules to these time warp draft wishes). Time marches on, learn from your mistakes, but get over them and carry on.

    • cjc

      The Ducks have been very good/lucky with drafting and developing defensemen, no? Montour, Vatanen (109th overall, 2009), Manson (160th overall, 2011), to say nothing of their four first rounders (Fowler, Lindholm, Theodore (26th overall, 2013 – lot of strikeouts even that high in the draft) and Jacob Larsson (27th overall, 2015)).

  • The Doctor

    I get all the criticism, but . . . I do have to say, I saw Smith play with the Generals in that final year, and he was an interesting and effective player in the role that the Generals had him in (second line forward). He has a really big reach (obviously) and he used it effectively to gain and maintain puck control, so in that sense he had that Joe Thornton aspect/potential to his game. He was slow though, and it’s true that the production numbers were never all that impressive. But having watched him play for Oshawa, I wasn’t convinced we’d made a terrible pick or anything like that.

  • Cheeky

    Main problem Calgary does wrong is the developing of prospects. Most draft choices are gambles, its how you develop them that separates the top teams… Hoping we can get there some day.