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NoVa Caps has been preparing key “player previews” for the upcoming season as the Washington Capitals begin to gear up for the start of training camp in two weeks. Today, we continue our previews with newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly.
Smith-Pelly spent last season with the New Jersey Devils, recording nine points (four goals, five assists) in 53 games played, with a minus-19 rating. A former second-round pick (42nd overall in 2010), Smith-Pelly averaged just 13:30 minutes of ice time last season, 31 seconds more than his career average of 12:59. Defensively, Smith-Pelly struggled, finishing the season with 14 giveaways and a Corsi rating of 40.1, and the Devils started play in their own zone 58.3% of the time Smith-Pelly was on the ice.
The Devils opted not to extend him a contract after the season and the Capitals signed him early in free agency.
2017-18 Season Preview
Entering his first season with the Capitals, Smith-Pelly will be one of several young forwards vying for a spot on the Caps’ Opening Night roster. Still just 25-years old, the Capitals are hoping they can turn the gritty right wing into a reclamation project, much like they did with fellow right wing Brett Connolly last season. Smith-Pelly’s career-high of 14 goals and 25 points (in 64 games played) came just one season ago, and on an offensively-loaded team like the Capitals, there’s no reason to think those numbers aren’t out of the question. As a new player to Head Coach Barry Trotz’ system, Smith-Pelly will likely take some time to adjust to new expectations and new teammates, and if he hopes to make the Opening Night roster, will need to work hard in the preseason to make a good impression.
More of this:
While not the biggest player at 6’0″, Smith-Pelly can use his size to work his way to the front of the net, as he does in this video. As he is a relatively unknown player to the Capitals, it is hard to gauge what his strengths exactly are. However, it’s clear that Smith-Pelly should continue to put himself in the best possible position to create a scoring opportunity.
Less of this:
While Caps fans are not sure what Smith-Pelly’s weaknesses are, his possession numbers and giveaway totals could clearly be improved. As mentioned above, Smith-Pelly finished last season with 14 giveaways and has 32 over the last two seasons. With the departures of three key defensemen this offseason, and the likely influx of two youngsters on the blueline, the Capitals will need their forwards to commit more defensively, meaning Smith-Pelly will need to sharpen his defensive play.
Key Goals for 2017-18:
As mentioned above, Smith Pelly will likely take some time to adjust to a new coaching staff and new teammates, but will also need to improve his defensive play if he is to secure a spot in the Opening Night lineup. in essence, Smith-Pelly will need:
- improve his defensive play
- reduce the number of giveaways he has
- put himself in good positions to succeed offensively
- adjust to his new team in a reasonable timeframe
By Michael Fleetwood