Florida Panthers Top 25 Under 25: #10 Reilly Smith

Debates have raged about whether Smith is an upgrade over Jimmy Hayes or not, but one thing is for certain, he has a fantastic last name.

Reilly Smith

Position: RW

Birthdate: 04/01/91 (24)

Acquired: Trade with Boston Bruins involving Marc Savard's contract and Jimmy Hayes

2014-15 Team/League: Boston Bruins (NHL)


81 13 27 40 20 7

Nationality: Canadian

Size: 6'0", 185 pounds

Contract Status: Signed through conclusion of 2016-17 season for $3.425 million per season

What to make of Reilly Smith. Lets start with this: as part of the Tyler Seguin trade that sent one of the league's top scorers to the Dallas Stars, expectations in Boston were always going to be impossibly high. But this was not the way it began for the right wing. Loui Eriksson was supposed to be the big return on that deal, and Smith was to be an addition that would likely start in the AHL. So it is an interesting exercise to return to the 2013-14 season, when Smith emerged on the Boston hockey scene.

From a Bleacher Report article from November, 2013:

Smith has excellent skating speed and a very quick release on his shot. He competes hard for 200 feet and works hard on the defensive end and the dirty areas.

From the same article, Bruins head coach Claude Julien had this to say about the young forward:

He's played a big role for us. He's a real smart player. He's creative, has good hockey sense and makes good plays. We're really happy.

Miami of Ohio assistant coach Nick Petraglia (where Reilly played his NCAA hockey), added this accolade, also from that article:

Smith is all about playing a complete game, and he is not looking for personal glory.

"He will continue to get better because he does not chase points," Petraglia told John Buccigross of ESPN.

In December, 2013, rantsports.com had this to say about Smith's play:

The chemistry he’s developing with Swedish forward Carl Soderberg is undeniable, resulting in both players becoming consistent scoring threats. Due to his early season success, Smith has been seeing a good amount of power play time as well, and has had a big hand in helping the unit become more successful this year.

He also had a very effective playoff campaign in 2014 with the Bruins, leading Julien to say the following about his rookie (from NBCSports.com):

"He plays like a veteran," Bruins coach Claude Julien told NHL.com. "And you know he’s very calm in those kind of situations. You don’t see him make too many big mistakes because he’s a smart hockey player.

"Some guys have it. It’s a knack he’s had from the start."

In that 2013-14 season, Smith's first full campaign in the NHL, he would score 20 goals, add 31 assists (for 51 points), and go +28. Recall me mentioning impossible expectations?

Boston fans soured quickly on their young winger during the 2014-15 season, as he fell back to 13 goals and 27 assists on a team that missed the playoffs, and is now reported to have had a divided locker room. New general manager Don Sweeney made a spate of moves this off-season that will greatly alter the Bruins make-up in 2015-16. Of course, for our purposes the most important of these moves was to trade Reilly Smith (and Marc Savard's contract) for Jimmy Hayes.

Our own Shane O'Donnell examined who got the better of the trade in great detail. Hayes was a popular player in Sunrise, and scored 19 goals in 2014-15 for the Panthers. For many in both Boston and South Florida, fairly or not, Smith will once again be evaluated by comparison with the player he was traded for. As he pointed out in his fine comparison, Smith is younger, faster, and more versatile than the bigger, slower, less experienced Hayes. Shane ran the advanced stats and came up with this:

Rel. CF% and Rel SCF% - The Bruins get a better share of the shot attempts and scoring chances with Smith on the ice than they do with him off of it. The same could be said of Hayes, but to a much lesser degree.

G/60 and P/60 - Hayes averaged more goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, but Smith averaged more points (by a tiny margin).

exp. CF%, Actual CF%, dCorsi%/, and TOI - We can disregard the relative numbers mentioned above to a certain degree, as Smith spent a lot of time with Patrice Bergeron last year, which would certainly result in positive possession metrics.

Using dCorsi (which accounts for quality of teammates, among other variables), however, we can see that Smith does drive possession on his own. Both Smith and Hayes had an expected CF% of 52.8%, but the young Bruin outperformed that expectation by more than 2 percent, while Hayes actually failed to meet expectations. Given that both were in top six roles for their teams (based on ice time per game), it's a good bet that Smith is better-suited to play on the second line than Hayes.

iCF/60, Composite SAG/60, and CC% - Here we can get a good look at offensive tendencies. Hayes generated a lot of shots, while Smith came close to matching Hayes' shot totals, and generated much more offense with his passing. Smith may have also been carried by his linemates in Boston, but Hayes wasn't exactly driving play down in South Florida.

Overall, Hayes may be more of a "goal-scorer", but Smith is more offensive in general, and better defensively. When it comes to numbers, the advantage is clearly in Smith's favor.

Shane was not alone in his evaluation of the trade: Thomas Andreu ran the two players numbers on the Horizontal Evaluation Ranking Optic and displayed the following:

Many detractors claim that Reilly benefitted from having great linemates in Boston. This is not necessarily all true. Last season, one complaint was that Julien was moving him between lines too much, destroying chemistry. Likely of more importance was that Boston was older, more injured, and slower than its competition. With the addition of Jimmy Hayes, the Bruins add another larger, slower forward to their somewhat depleted ranks. Similar detractions can be lobbed at Hayes, as he feasted on Nick Bjugstad's work. With Bjugstad sidelined with a back injury to finish the season, Hayes had only 2 goals in his final 24 games.

Which leads us back to Reilly Smith and what exactly he is: a top-6 wing, good for 20-plus goals a season, or 3rd line two-way player good for 15-18 goals per season. For whatever its worth, ESPN Fantasy Hockey projects Smith for 82 games, 17 goals, and 26 assists this coming season. This 24-year-old right wing is projected to play on the 2nd line for the Panthers with Bjugstad and perhaps Brandon Pirri, meaning he will get plenty of help and offensive firepower. Smith was a teammate of Pirri's growing up in greater Toronto.

The Miami Herald's George Richards quoted Dale Tallon regarding the team's new wing:

"[Smith] can play any forward position, with anyone really,'' Tallon said. "He's really smart and can really skate. ... We needed to address our need for speed.''


We're looking for a player with more speed who can play more positions, kill penalties, play defense.''

Smith is the real deal. He has played 203 NHL games. He has scored 36 NHL goals and has 64 career assists. He has NHL playoff experience. All those he has played for describe him as fast, smart, gritty, willing to battle bigger players in the corners. Some players just "have it." Brandon Pirri "has it." Nick Bjugstad "has it." And according to none other than Stanley Cup winning coach Claude Julien, Reilly Smith "has it."

Where We Voted for Smith

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
8 8 9 18 8

Who We Voted 10th

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Erik Gudbranson Rocco Grimaldi

Dmitry Kulikov

Rocco Grimaldi Dmitry Kulikov