The New Jersey Devils made more moves Friday to solidify their roster. One of those moves saw first-round pick defenseman Ty Smith getting sent down to Juniors for the rest of the season.
The New Jersey Devils are about to take a trip to Switzerland, but before they took off they left a few players behind. After the acquisition of Jean-Sebastien Dea, it became clear that Kevin Rooney and Brett Seney were going to get sent to Binghamton, but the defensemen were still in flux. Rookie Ty Smith is no longer in consideration for that spot.
He played extremely well in the preseason, sometimes looking like a ten-year veteran out there. There were times where he was the best player on the ice. There were some inconsistencies, but he was definitely skilled enough to make the NHL roster. However, it probably wasn’t worth keeping Smith on the roster, and burning a year of his entry deal to have him as a sixth defenseman in a year where the Devils aren’t considered huge contenders.
Keeping Smith on the roster adds value to this year’s team, but takes away value in two different ways. For one, keeping Smith means one of Eric Gryba, Mirco Mueller or Steve Santini have to go on waivers. It’s not worth keeping Smith on the roster this season to put talent out to pasture for free.
Two, Smith may look good in preseason, but we don’t know how long that will last. Going to Spokane in the Western Hockey League means the furthest distance he’ll travel is just over 900 miles for an away game. Going from New Jersey to San Jose is about 3,000 miles. That kind of travel will really take a lot out of an 18 year old’s game. We’ve seen the rookie wall before. We saw it with Jesper Bratt just last season.
We don’t know what the grind of an NHL season would do to Smith this early in the process. It will only help Smith if he learns how to lose before he loses how to win. What I mean by that is getting cut will drive him to continue to do better.
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Smith is going to an A+ organization in the Spokane Chiefs. He played with them last season, scoring 14 goals with 59 assists. Honestly, it will be hard for him to repeat those numbers, let alone exceed them. However, his team has a lot to prove this season. They lost in the first round of the playoffs in heart-breaking fashion. They went down 3-1 in the series to Portland, only to force a game seven. Smith scored the game-tying goal in game seven, but the team allowed the loser with less than five minutes left in that game.
Smith will be able to carry his team as far as they will allow him to take them. That will be great experience, even if the Devils will likely never put him in that position. He is the future of the defensive position, but the Devils still have Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Damon Severson and Will Butcher all under 25 years old. Think about that for just a second. Once Smith gets on the team next season, the Devils will have a core of seven great players all 25 and under with team control. That’s not even adding vets like Taylor Hall and Sami Vatanen who will be here for years (hopefully) and prospects like John Quenneville, Mike McLeod, Nick Lappin and Jesper Boqvist who could all be on the NHL roster next season.
Smith would have been a fun story line to watch this season, but this is the right decision overall. Now, let’s look forward to the extremely bright future staring the Devils in the face.
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