Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: Hunter Smith

It’s only appropriate that as we say goodbye to Brian Burke, we also say goodbye to, arguably, the epitome of his attempts to implement his brand of truculent, pugnacious hockey on the Calgary Flames: Hunter Smith.

The idea behind the pick (and that entire 2014 draft in general) was that the Flames needed skill to survive, but also size. Entering the draft, Smith was an overager OHL prospect with below average scoring numbers (40 points in 64 games) but above average height (6’7). Only one set of numbers mattered to the Flames, and not the right one.

Predictably, a player who did not score a lot in junior came to the pros and did not score a lot. He was, however, 6’7 throughout the whole endeavour.

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Smith had perhaps one of the worst starts to his junior career possible. He was traded after 15 games with the Windsor Spitfires, and only suited up for 30 due to injury in his draft year. In addition to his poor luck was some poor play. He only picked up two combined points through his first two seasons, which is generally a death knell for prospective NHL prospects.

Somehow, his draft+1 season managed to drive people bananas. Three scouting services ranked Smith in the top 100, and one in the top 50. Sportsnet had him pegged as a potential first round selection. Despite his modest season and overaged status, people were convinced Smith had turned a corner, especially thanks to an excellent playoff series where he was on the line that shut down Connor McDavid. Perhaps the Flames had a good feeling about the future of the Battle of Alberta and selected his OHL antidote in the second round of the 2014 draft.

The reason you don’t judge a player based off just a few games of their season is because those few games are just a puzzle piece from a larger puzzle. Smith’s final OHL season was a minor improvement over the year before, but he still finished under a point per game. To be fair, he did turn the jets on during the OHL playoffs, helping the Oshawa Generals make and eventually win the Memorial Cup.

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The past two seasons, Smith has been plying his trade in the AHL, becoming a fourth line enforcer for the Stockton Heat when not injured. He picked up 19 points over 88 games played.

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Smith began his year in Stockton, though only in spirit. He was quickly reassigned to the KC Mavericks when it became quite clear that he wasn’t going to get into the lineup.

In KC, Smith took a bit to find his footing, but eventually started scoring points aplenty, becoming an effective player for the Mavericks. Unfortunately, that did not last long as an undisclosed UBI ended his season in January.

The numbers

GP G A P Primary points 5v5 Points 5v5 Primary points NHLe
ECHL 35 9 8 17 16 12 12 11.15

Positives: Smith has a knack for primary points and is also a strong 5v5 producer…

Negatives: …in the ECHL, and after two years of hockey at a higher level. Smith’s production isn’t that impressive when you remember he’s a third-year pro and not a rookie. His numbers are similar to Brett Pollock’s numbers from his ECHL year, although Pollock was freshly 20 and had just graduated from the WHL. That’s not good for a 22-year-old veteran!

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I really don’t have any more insight into the data. It is not good to get demoted to the ECHL and score at middling rates. Especially when you have been pro for three years. Pretty much all that needs to be said.

The future

Even if this is a bad season for Smith, he doesn’t appear to be much more than an AHL fourth liner and a drafting lesson.

He’s probably not going to get a second contract out of Calgary. When he’s healthy, he hasn’t shown much more than what any other journeyman can do for you. Perhaps he could get qualified as a matter of organizational depth (spoiler alert: the Flames are very weak on the right wing), but I really think there are more deserving names that could earn that contract.


Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov

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    • The Beej

      I wonder about that. Why not? Someone needs to patrol the 4th line in stockton.

      Does anyone remember when Chara started in Ottawa? He really couldnt play hockey. It wasnt until he had a couple years under his belt in Boston that he figured out the game.

      Will Smith get there probably not. Unless there is a better use for one of our 50 contract spots he could get resigned. Maybe AHL only though.

        • Beer League Coach

          His chief claim to fame will forever be that he was the RW on the line that shut down Conner and the Erie Otters when the Oshawa Generals beat Erie for the OHL title. He has done nothing worthwhile ever since. Thanks BB. He ranks right up there with drafting that Biggs guy for TO.

      • Hockeysense9393

        Actually it was in Ottawa that he did start to become a point producing defenceman. It was the first four years in New York that he was quiet. Defencemen take more time and especially that big. Not a good comparison.

  • The GREAT WW

    The 2014 draft; I remember it like it was yesterday:

    Posters on Flames Nation: “you don’t know what you are talking about WW, we’ll take the opinions of our scouts and GM over yours….”

    Good times!


      • freethe flames

        This sends a bad message and I worry a guy Tkachuk might think things like this are okay and end up being the guy punished for something that goes over the line.

  • oilcanboyd

    ‘Thanks for the insights on our prospects Christian.

    As today is the Kentucky Derby, I figured that MacDonald and Smith could be combined in one article as “Also Ran”.

      • I’ve been caught!

        Yeah, we are unfortunately in a stretch of the “less interesting” prospects, to put it nicely. I think Mitchell Mattson is running tomorrow followed by Josh Healey/Adam Ollas Mattsson sometime after. But then it’s all Heat prospects which should be more fulfilling reading. I try to time Heat prospect wrap ups with our actual player reviews so the less interesting prospects fill the void between CHL and AHL players.

  • freethe flames

    So the USA won again today. Johnny with an A. I also see Derek Ryan had an assist as well; I would not be surprised to see him as the Flames #4 center. (He played for BP last year)

  • Mickey O

    Elliotte Friedman is reporting that teams have contacted Glen Gulutzan about coaching their AHL team. But a couple of other teams might be looking at him as an assistant in the NHL. The Oilers (which was a pretty well known rumour), and the Sabres are poking around. Please sign on in Buffalo, Glen.

    Ryan O’Reilly is now a massive problem on that team after he called out the entire organization. He wants to come to Canada to play. Troy Brouwer is a great-in-the-room guy with elite hockey sense, and he just needs a fresh start. The trade is a natural fit!

    Buffalo would have to eat some salary obviously, and throw in a draft pick and a prospect to even things up. Calgary can’t be expected to give away Brouw for nuthin’.

    • freethe flames

      Mickey you just had to mention Brouwer; man how the signing of this guy makes me angry. As I watch the Caps series I just get angrier. When the rumor as out we were signing Brouwer for $4.5 m I said we could sign 3 of 4 other guys for the same money or less; here’s the 4 names I mentioned Beau Bennett, Alex Chaisson, Brett Connelly and Smith-Pelly. The later 3 all being slotted properly playing for a good Caps team making under $3m. Brouwer in his two year here has 19g 28a = 47 points, Connelly has 30g 20A= 50 points, Chaisson 21 g,21a= 42 points and Smith Pelly 11g, 14 a=25points. BT needs to admit this was a huge mistake and either buy him out or bury him KC.

      • Beer League Coach

        When the Brouwer signing was announced I thought they signed him for $4.5 mil for 4 years. I thought this was a decent signing. Then I read further and discovered it was $4.5 per year for 4 years. I shook me head and said wtf are they doing.

        I have always liked Brett Connolly and was hoping Flames could find a way to get him to come to Calgary ever since he was drafted by Tampa Bay. I still think he would be a good acquisition for the Flames. Tkachuk, Janko, and Connolly or put him on the top line with Johnny & Mony.