The Nashville Predators do not have the benefit of being in the national spotlight. In fact, the Preds will have a whopping total of one game broadcast on NBC Sports and only have a handful of games being shown on the NHL Network. That lone national game will come on February 26 when the Preds host the Minnesota Wild.
This means unless you live in the greater Nashville area, religiously watch Preds highlights, or subscribe to NHL Center Ice you’re missing out on blossoming Preds winger Craig Smith.
To some hockey fans, he might still be remembered as “the guy who missed an empty net” in 2011 against the Maple Leafs.
Don’t let that embarrassing miss fool you. Smith has progressed into becoming a deadly sniper.
Smith scored 24 goals and recorded 28 assists for 52 points in 79 games last season. He was a team-best plus-16, notched seven power play goals, and four game-winning goals.
At 25, Smith is entering the prime of his career. He is renowned for his strength on the puck and ability to sneak to clear patches of ice and rip laser one-timers.
If he can put together stronger game-to-game consistency, Smith will break through into the bracket of elite NHL scorers. There were too many patches of pointless streaks last season.
Smith is an adept skater and has good size at 6-foot-1 and 202 lbs. He doesn’t take careless penalties. Smith only committed 22 PIMs last season, though he can stand to improve his defensive awareness.
Given his statistical leap in 2013-14, there’s certainly a chance that Smith can take another stride forward under new Predators head coach Peter Laviolette.
Throughout his coaching career, Laviolette has a track record of getting young talents to reach their full potential.
“He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential,” Poile said in an announcement on the Predators’ official website.
Laviolette recently coached Smith at the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championships. Smith scored three goals and recorded five assists for eight points in eight games for Team USA at the tournament.
If you happen to turn on NHL Network’s nightly highlight show, there’s a good chance you’ll see Smith singeing the net with some rocket one-timers.
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