What Is Reilly Smith's Ceiling with the Boston Bruins?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2013

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Reilly Smith #18 of the Boston Bruins skates with the puck against the St. Louis Blues at the TD Garden on November 21, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Steve Babineau/Getty Images

He was the other guy in the Tyler Seguin trade last summer.

When the Bruins traded their 2010 first-round pick along with versatile Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson, it seemed a bit hard to understand.

Seguin, the second pick in that 2010 draft behind Taylor Hall, had an ordinary 2013 regular season and a stupefying postseason that saw him score one goal.

The Bruins ran out of patience with a player who has all the tools to become a superstar.

The Bruins may end up regretting the deal if Seguin turns out to be a 40-goal-per-season superstar.

However, they may be quite pleased with it by the end of the year. Not only is Eriksson starting to hit his stride after a slow start, but the Bruins also got another young stud in that deal who may help them get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row.

Reilly Smith was the fourth player in that deal, and he is not just another guy. While there were no guarantees that he would make the Bruins or become a regular in the lineup, it was obvious from the first day of training camp that he was not just a prospect.

Smith has made an excellent transition to the Bruins, and he has been a key contributor as the right wing on the third line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. He has also become a contributor to the Bruins' second power-play unit.

Through the Bruins' first 24 games, Smith has scored five goals and added 11 assists. He is also plus-four on the season. Two of his goals have come on the power play, and he also has one game-winning marker.

Milan Lucic and David Krejci both have 18 points, and they are the only Bruins who have done more on the offensive end than Smith.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien does not like to fawn over his players, but he is clearly impressed with Smith's contribution. 

"Just look at the stats," Julien told Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com.

He's been a real good player for us. He's a young player that's probably not been overlooked but kind of been in the shadow for a long time and he's emerged with us here. 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.

The 22-year-old Smith played his college hockey at Miami (Ohio). He was a third-round selection in the 2009 draft, so it was clear that he had quite a bit of talent.

However, there were a few issues in his game that he had to address. The first was his work on the defensive end, and the other was a weakness in the physical game. Smith, 6'0" and 185 pounds, seemed skinny as he finished his college career. If he was going to have a shot to compete on even terms in the NHL, he had to add some strength.

Also, if he was going to play for the Bruins, he had to work on his defense. Julien demands that all of his players must be accountable in the back end, and when the Bruins scouted Smith last year, they noticed that he was no longer lacking in that area.

He also got stronger. Not necessarily bigger, but he is able to hold his own in the corners. It's gotten to the point where Smith clearly has grit on both ends of the ice, and he's a sandpaper type who is unafraid to exchange hard hits with players of his size, or even bigger, if it means he is going to come away with the puck.

Smith's progress represents quite a jump from what he did last year with the Stars. He played 37 games in the lockout-shortened season and had three goals and six assists.

He has nearly doubled his point total in about two-thirds the number of games. He is producing for the Bruins, and he is gaining confidence with every game that he plays. 

One of the reasons for this may be his devotion to the all-around game. According to Miami (Ohio) assistant coach Nick Petraglia, 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.

He understands how to be a complete player. He wins puck battles. He is responsible. Patient player and is consistent because he doesn't cheat the game. [...] Boston knew what they were getting when they included him in Seguin deal.

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.

Those qualities will keep his ticket punched in Boston for a long time.

Smith appears to be a player who can make the Bruins' third line dangerous, and he may be able to approach 20 goals before the end of this year. 

As far as the future goes, he has some star qualities. If he keeps developing, there's no reason why he couldn't become a quality winger who can score 25-to-30 goals within a year or two.

That's a pretty good payoff for a guy who was barely noticed when Seguin was traded away from the Bruins.

Smith may not have Seguin's profile or reputation, but he doesn't care about that. He just wants to work hard and keep on improving.

That's exactly the kind of player the Bruins want wearing the spoked-B logo.