Where to begin with Reilly Smith?
Reilly Smith came into the 2012-13 season with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. After finishing his final year of college hockey as a Hobey Baker (The Heisman of college hockey) finalist he was immediatly put onto the Stars Dallas Stars roster, burning a year of his entry level contract. Coming into this year, it was expected that he would make the team out of training camp and when the lockout put the entire NHL season on hold, he went on to absolutely tear up the AHL in the first half of the season.
This had us Stars fans salivating over the idea that this kid was going to play for our beloved team this year and a lot of us got caught dreaming of having a potential calder cup nominee on our roster.
This didn't quite pan out this season, however. Smith only scored three goals and added six assists for 9 points over 37 games in the NHL. These stats seem underwhelming and disappointed a lot of us. However, Smith's first NHL season wasn't actually that bad, all things considered.
He came into the league as an offensive star at the lower levels of play. In college he was able to play a more offensive game and didn't necessarily have to deal with the same defensive responsibilities as professionals do. While he definitely improved a lot in his own end throughout the season, it continually showed to be a weakness in his game. That being said he was put into a role he was unaccustomed to - the bottom six. This was the first time in his career that Smith really needed to learn how to be responsible in all three zones before he would be trusted as a top six forward, and this came with some bumps for him. All things considered, I would say he still learned a lot and will be able to be more relied on next season.
In the offensive zone Smith was one of the most frustrating players to watch this year. He hit way more than his fair share of posts throughout the season and he came close on many occasions, but was only rewarded for three of those. The recent game against Vancouver comes to mind when I try to define his year offensively. He had two prime chances down low where he made a great move to create some space then just lifted the puck too high and over the crossbar. These chances, for me, explained Smith's season in a nutshell. He put himself into good situations and showed some great hands and ability to think the game, but just couldn't connect.
The fact that a rookie right out of college would have the presence of mind to stop the puck and deke in tight in front of Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks is really impressive to me, most players would have just stuffed the puck at the net. So, offensively, Smith has some learning to do, he needs to settle down a bit and focus on hitting the net in tight more, but he still showed the instincts of a goal scorer. And those two moves didn't show any lack of confidence either.
While overall a disappointing year for the highly touted offensive Stars prospect what it really comes down to for me is that Reilly Smith had a rookie year. Not every rookie can be a Yakupov, Saad, Galchenyuk, or Huberdeau. In fact, most professional players don't have those kinds of rookie years, that's why there are only three Calder finalists and only one winner. It's also extra frustrating because of the success fellow Dallas Stars rookies like Brenden Dillon and Alex Chiasson had from the beginning of their time with the big club. This shouldn't detract from Smith, however, because there was a lot of pressure on him after his stint in the NHL last year and the need for scoring this team had.
This season was a learning one for Smith (like most of the team) and it's probably good that it came in a shortened NHL season and not a full 82 games. While I would have liked to see more consistent production out of him and I'm disappointed that he couldn't translate his almost immediate AHL success to the NHL, Smith showed good instincts and the boatloads of skill he possesses throughout the year and it will only be a matter of time before it all comes together. When it does, oh boy, it's going to be beautiful.