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Get to Know a Golden Knight: Reilly Smith

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As part of the build-up to the Stanley Cup Final series between the Capitals and the Golden Knights, Japers’ Rink will be looking at some of the important Knights players and how they might impact the series.

Montreal Canadiens v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Reilly Smith

#19 | Right Wing

Height: 6’0” | Weight: 185 | Born: April 1, 1991

Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario | Acquired: Traded from Florida in 2017

Assets: Is a very sound two-way performer and low-maintenance winger. Knows where to place himself in order to score goals at lower levels. Is shifty and also a hard worker. Can play either wing position effectively.

Flaws: Does not have ideal size (6’0”, 185 pounds) for the National Hockey League game, so he could stand to get stronger physically in order to endure the lengthy NHL schedule over time. Lacks offensive consistency.

Career Potential: Quality two-way winger.

(Via The Hockey News)

Via HockeyViz

Why You Should Know Who He Is:

There are plenty of reasons, and not just because his name sounds like a rejected character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Along with linemates Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson (a trio which combined for an ionospheric 213 points and 92 goals in the regular season and all of whom were gobsmackingly unwanted by their previous teams), Reilly Smith has been the offensive engine driving the Golden Knights bonanza this postseason.

Don’t believe me?

In these playoffs, Smith leads all remaining players in even-strength points-per-60 (3.05), and leads all Vegas skaters in even-strength points (11), even-strength primary-points-per-60 (2.77, wayyyyy more than next-most Marchessault at 1.57), and power play assists (5).

What’s more, these aren’t goals against the run of play. Ol’ Rei-Smi dominates possession, too. The Knights take 54.46% of the even-strength shots when Smith is on the ice, and his CF Rel% (that is, how much the ice tips for or against the Knights when Smith hops over the boards vs. when he’s on the bench) of +6.63 is the best on the entire team.

Plus, he’s so versatile, they should call him the Smith Army Knife. He leads Vegas right wingers in power play TOI (40.15 minutes), penalty kill TOI (30.47 minutes), and leads all Vegas forwards in average time-on-ice (20.34 minutes).

Look, the book on the surprising Smith is like this:

You don’t NEED to expect an atom bomb. It’ll blow you up either way.

How The Caps Can Stop Him:

So, here’s the deal on Reilly.

He’s a massively skilled player. He’s also, as you can see from the The Hockey News’ scouting report above, not necessarily the biggest drink of water on the ice at 6’0”, 185 lbs. In fact, after Tomas Hyka and fellow linemate Jonathan Marchessault, he’s the smallest forward on the team.

As evidenced in the heat map below (courtesy of HockeyViz), Smith doesn’t operate offensively in front of the net too much.

Reilly Smith heat map, courtesy of HockeyViz

What he does do is hurt you like a bad breakup from above both the left and right circles, and in the low-to-mid slot.

As the Capitals’ defense successfully adjusted for over the course of the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay, it will be critically important for Washington’s blue liners to quickly and decisively close off space against Smith. Ditto on the power play, where Smith is as brutally efficient as a guillotine from the right face off dot.

If the Capitals can count on their leaders in penalty kill blocked shots (Brooks Orpik, 14) and even-strength takeaways (T.J. Oshie, 13) to disrupt Smith and Vegas’ top line, Washington will have a good shot at stifling this high-flying Golden Knights offense and striking a jackpot of their own: the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.