A closer look at the fantasy prospects of Devante Smith-Pelly.
Drafted: Anaheim Ducks 2010 - 2nd round, 42nd overall
Dobber Ranking: #63 forward
In this week's edition of The Journey we take a look at one of the most talked about players of 2015 from Dobber's Top 215 Prospect list, as we take a deeper look at the career of Devante Smith-Pelly. Originally drafted by Anaheim in 2010, 42nd overall, Smith-Pelly was one of the first of his draft class to skate in the NHL, making the big leagues at the tender age of 19. But was it a mistake? Did the Ducks ruin his career by playing him too early?
It's taken three seasons to finally top his previous career high of 13 points as a rookie, and looks like he may have plateaued. Let's take a closer at the man who will always be labelled as "the return" for fan favorite and last summer's prize European free agent Jiri Sekac.
In 17 games since joining the Canadiens the man they call DSP has managed to muster just one assist. We knew he wasn't going to be the answer to the Canadiens serious scoring woes, but the lack of any sort of offensive ability is quite alarming.
He has been glued to the bottom six, usually playing a third line role on what seemed like a free pass. The positives are that from time to time he does throw his 220 pound frame around, is responsible defensively and rarely takes penalties (he's the league's least penalized Top-30 hitter).
It hasn’t been quite enough for Head Coach Michel Therrien, as Smith-Pelly was recently scratched from the lineup for two games, and once re-inserted was relegated to the fourth line as Brandon Prust and Dale Weise ascended to Lars Eller's wings.
The Canadiens management and fan base alike are trying to be patient with the new kid in town, but results ultimately determine your fate. The fact that he led a stacked Anaheim team in goals (five) during last season's playoffs seems to be the only thread left to hang on to. The fact that neither Torrey Mitchell nor Brian Flynn have panned out add to the pressure, especially since those guys didn't cost the team a bigger, faster, flashier player of the same age.
The Scarborough native began his career with high expectations, as Mississauga St-Michael's Majors selected him with the eighth overall pick in the OHL's priority selection draft in 2008. After scoring 13 goals and 25 points (57 games) with a minus-four rating as a freshman in 2008-2009, Smith-Pelly more than doubled those numbers in his draft year, with 29 goals and 62 points in 60 games to go with a plus-27 rating while leading his team in scoring. Very impressive considering there were only four other players under the age of 18 on the roster, including an 18-year-old Casey Cizikas who scored 62 points as well, but in 68 games.
Come draft time the question was, will he be able to develop the unnatural parts of his game and become an all-around beast? The things he did to produce offense won't work in the NHL, or at least won't lead to as many offensive chances. Built like a brick house, and quick enough on his feet, Smith-Pelly can be an intimidating presence. But fore-checking a 16-year-old 155 pound defenseman is much different than coming down on Shea Weber, or even an Erik Karlsson.
Every front office in the league was aware of this, but also knew even if he didn't develop he was already fit to play the role of serviceable grinder on the fourth line. That being said, after the Ducks were enticed to select him with the 42nd overall pick, close tabs were kept on the young man. Everyone in the Anaheim organization was watching very closely in 2010-11, hoping their investment was progressing as they had planned.
While he did improve his goal total to 36 and plus-minus to a whopping plus-49, his point total left much to be desired with 66 in 67 games.
When Smith-Pelly cracked the Ducks as a 19-year-old many questioned whether it was the right move or not, whether he was good enough to play in the NHL. But the question I believe they answered was "Will he benefit from another year playing against kids?" and the answer was no. They didn't want him to go back and waste time scoring goals over and over by overpowering his opponent at the net. His game needed to evolve and since 19-year-olds aren't allowed in the AHL, the Ducks decided it was best to remain with the team. Backed into this situation, he was forced to survive and keep his head just above water; when he should have been splitting the seas in junior hockey.
Struggling around the holidays, GM Bob Murray allowed DSP to join his Canadian brethren (among a few Canadiens teammates - Bournival, Beaulieu, Gallagher) to fight for Gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships, but in the first game he broke his leg and was forced to the rafters for the next couple of months.
Now 20, he was allowed to play in the AHL and sent to spend the season with Syracuse. His offensive game came back to life, scoring 32 points including 14 goals in 65 games but had a minus-20 rating. Murray and the Ducks returned him once again to the Crunch, where he steadily improved and potted 27 goals and 16 assists for 43 points in 55 games and a much more reasonable minus-one rating.
With nothing left to learn in the AHL, Devante dressed for 54 games with Anaheim, scoring just five goals and 17 points before being shipped out of sunny California to the blistering cold hockey hotbed.
As I stated earlier, all will be forgotten and hopes of a long career in Montreal will be reborn if he comes through in the post-season for the top seeded Habs. Their RW is especially weak, so the opportunity is there for him to succeed. If he can do it.
Potential: 15 goal - 15 assist - 30 point RW with high hits and low PIMs.
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