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.
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.
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.
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.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 Points||5v5 Primary points||NHLe|
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!
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.
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