At 6’2″ 205lbs, 18 year old Toronto native Givani Smith is a powerful winger currently playing in his third season for the Guelph Storm of the OHL. His first season, he put up 19 points in 61 games played (split between the Barrie Colts and the Guelph Storm). Last year, he put up 42 in 65. That was enough for the Detroit Red Wings, who drafted him 46th overall in the 2nd round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. You voted, so for our second edition of In the Wings we’re checking in on how Smith is doing in his first season post draft.
I, like many, were excited to see the Red Wings draft Smith in the 2nd round. It has been awhile since the Wings have had a big bodied winger who plays a strong physical brand of hockey while also having a nose for putting pucks to the net. I think our top 6 has missed someone who can jump into the play physically while also contributing to the offense (players like Glendening and Ott, these guys play a physical grinding style of hockey but don’t ever seem to have a scoring touch). Givani Smith is starting to look like he will slot in quite nicely with the Red Wings in that capacity.
In 30 games this season, he has 17 goals, 11 assists, 77 penalty minutes, and is +7. He is 3 points behind leading team scorer Issac Ratcliffe, and tied for the team lead in goals. All told, he is an integral part of this seasons offense in Guelph, playing on the first line. Like I did with Joe Hicketts, I’m going to try and breakdown what highlights I can find for Smith to show you guys what type of player he is.
The draft combine from Rogers Tv shows some nice offense from Smith to start with
You can see several of these goals are the in close type of greasy goals, goals where the goalie has multiple players in his face and you just need someone to muscle in and bang it home. He has a nice long range shot in there where he puts it top corner, and another one where he powers through everyone to tuck it five hole. I like the versatility we see in this combine. I’ve learned my lesson from Teemu Pulkkinen that a one dimensional player does not have the skill set needed to succeed in the NHL.
Here’s an individual highlight I’ve dug up:
C’mon Missisauga. There is literally two of you plus the goalie alone versus Smith. He skates down the ice, beats the defender, and gets a great scoring chance what looks like short side. When the goalie beats it, Smith is already turning to scoop up his own rebound and punch it home. Goalie had no chance, and we can also see Smith’s strong skating ability as well.
I apologize for the inability to embed this one, I don’t think Sportsnet wants me too. In the 2016 BioSteel Cup Smith had a hattrick for Team Simmonds. In the first goal, he gets a nice saucer pass to himself and then goes ahead and just lifts the backhander over the pad short side. We’re seeing a pattern with these in tight finishes, and it’s something I don’t think I’ve seen enough with in the Wings this season (actually, goals in general). The second goal is a 2-on-1, but the nice thing about it is that Smith gets it back incredibly close and has the smarts to lift it up straight up into the net. Too often do you see guys with a wide open net but they just run out of room and bang it off the post or the side of the net. Last goal is just a clean breakaway shot that the goalie doesn’t react in time.
Skip to around :20 for Smith’s OT Winner. Here we again see the same play we are expecting from Smith. In close rebound, buried behind the goalie. Smith has a lot of assets in his offensive arsenal. He’s a big guy who can wreak havoc in front of the net, and can power through with strong skating ability. He can score from in close or from farther out, and shows intelligence in where to place his shots.
One of the things you expect to get from a player like Smith is fights, and so far in his career he hasn’t disappointed in his willingness to drop the gloves while also showing enough restrain to refrain from being a liability. He already has a fight this season, good for 13 total OHL fights.
Here’s a fight against Jacob Friend from the Owen Sound Attack, earlier this season. As you can see, Smith is not afraid to get in there and throw those quick bombs. He pretty handily takes care of Friend until the linesmen come in and stop the fight. Friend got the instigator on that fight, but it’s nice that
This fight was in the preseason game against Boston. Smith delivered a late, but clean hit (he clearly slowed up to prevent boarding) when Joe Morrow took exception. Morrow is forced to turtle and eventually Smith over commits and allows Morrow to bring him down pretty cleanly. But this fight I think speaks to much of what makes Givani Smith who he is. Dropping the gloves in a preseason game is about making a point. He knows he is a physical player, and he’s consciously bringing that to the front of who he is as a player. It’s a gap the Wings have, and a gap he’s trying to fill.
Red Wings fans should temper expectations for Givani Smith for at least another season. He wants be eligible for the AHL until he is 20, and I think that one of the most important steps for a prospect is to make the leap from Junior to Minor to Major successfully. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that scoring in the O does not always translate. I’ve nothing against the guy but Steve Ott had 50 goals in 55 games in the OHL and I don’t think anyone is arguing that he is a top 6 forward. Givani Smith will need more time and seasoning before we know where he’ll place in the Wings, but so far this season he is off to a rocket of a start.