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When the Capitals signed right wing Devante Smith-Pelly in free agency a few weeks ago they did so, not expecting him to replace departing Top 6 right wing Justin Williams but, as a player that could help revive his career. While Smith-Pelly’s skillset is very different, he could very well turn out to be the next Brett Connolly.
Last summer, the Caps signed former first-round pick (sixth overall in 2010) Brett Connolly in free agency to add some depth and offensive potential to their already potent lineup. In his first season with the team, the 25-year old Connolly scored a career-high 15 goals and finished with 23 points in 66 games played with a plus/minus rating of plus-20. He became a prominent fixture on the Caps’ third-line throughout the season and was rewarded with a two-year contract after the season. While Smith-Pelly’s draft pedigree (second round pick, 42nd overall in 2010) isn’t as noteworthy, he has shown the potential to be a useful contributor offensively in the past.
While he finished last season with four goals and nine points in 53 games played, Smith-Pelly finished with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) in 2015-16 in 64 games played with the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils. In that season, he averaged 0.39 points per game and finished the season with a shooting percentage of 14.9. While it’s unlikely he will reach that high of a percentage again, his career shooting percentage is 9.0. For his career as a whole, he has averaged 0.12 goals per game and 0.29 points per game and an average of 5.6 point shares (number of points a player contributes through his defense and offense).
During his career season, Smith-Pelly played an average of 12:18 minutes a night and, with the Caps looking towards their younger players to step up next season, should he make the Opening Night roster, could see his numbers increase with more playing time. Smith-Pelly is not a pure scorer like Connolly so his role may be a bit different. He plays a lot like former Capital Troy Brouwer, a player who goes to the net and battles hard while taking hits and delivering them as well. If he does make the Opening Night roster, he will likely play on the third or fourth-line. While they are somewhat different players in terms of their playing style, Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly were and are projects for the Capitals. Seeing how well Connolly’s signing worked, the Caps are hoping they’ve hit another home run with Smith-Pelly.
By Michael Fleetwood