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Tag:Craig Smith
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:47 am
 

Video: Condra misses wide-open net point blank

By Brian Stubits

We've had our share of Goal of the Year candidate posts this season -- like this recent one from Evgeni Malkin. Some of them are just too good to ignore.

This isn't one of those posts.

No, this is the other side of things, the ugliest misses of the season. The latest entrant into the competition was Erik Condra's miss in Tuesday night's 1-0 Senators win over the Bruins.

I sure am glad the Sens didn't need another goal otherwise, ouch. I mean, he just missed a completely unobstructed cage from just a shade outside of the blue paint.

Luckily for Condra and his pride, I don't think he'll take home the shame of the top blooper this season. Craig Smith's miss earlier this season is going to be really hard to beat. They even started the goal horn in Nashville prematurely.

My favorite part about the Smith scene -- completely underrated, by the way -- is Sergei Kostitsyn coming over to give Smith a hug and then slowly slinking away once he realizes it was no goal.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:11 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:43 pm
 

Rookies facing the toughest assignments

CouturierBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at which top rookies are playing some of the toughest (and easiest) assignments in the NHL.

Most NHL teams are going to put their rookies into favorable situations on the ice.

They are usually not going to be asked to play the toughest minutes on their team, against the best opponents and in defensive situations, and instead are going to be put into low pressure situations where they have the best opportunity to succeed. There are, of course, always exceptions, and some youngsters are asked to take on larger (and more important) roles, whether it be out of necessity, or because the player has shown that he's capable of taking on such an assignment at a young age. 

This year's rookie class has had some pretty impressive performances so far, including that of top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (currently the NHL's leading rookie scorer) in Edmonton, Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson with the Devils and, of course, Philadelphia's young forwards Sean Couturier (pictured) and Matt Read, who have not only flashed some offensive ability, but have also proven themselves to be more than capabale penalty killers.

But which of the NHL's top rookies are being asked to play the toughest minutes this season?

Well, that's what the scatterplot picture below helps us figure out. We're using Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (the level of competition the player is playing against -- the higher the number, the tougher the opponent, and vice versa) and Offensive Zone starts (both via Behind The Net) during 5-on-5 play to determine which rookies are being asked to play in the toughest situations by their respective teams.

The closer a player is to the top left of the chart, the harder the assignments he's being given (playing against better players and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone), while the closer a player is to the bottom right, the easier the assignment (playing against weaker competition and starting more shifts in the offensive zone).

The players included: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Adam Henrique (Devils), Nick Johnson (Wild), Luke Adam (Sabres), Cody Hodgson (Canucks), Jared Cowen (Senators), Adam Larsson (Devils), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Matt Read (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Raphael Diaz (Canadiens), Craig Smith (Predators), Colin Greening (Senators) and Kaspars Daugavins (Senators).

Rookie Assignments

A few thoughts:

1) When it comes to the NHL's rookie of the year debate the two most common names are, naturally, Nugent-Hopkins and Henrique. They are, after all, the top two scoring rookies in the league, and before Nugent-Hopkins went out with his injury they were neck-and-neck in that scoring race. Now that Henrique is running unopposed for the foreseeable future, he's going to take over that scoring lead (barring an injury of his own, of course) and will probably become the front-runner for the award by seasons end.

Both players have arguments working in their favor.

When we did our mid-season award picks I went with Henrique based on the fact he and Nugent-Hopkins were nearly identical offensively, while Henrique was being asked to play in tougher situations (as the chart above illustrates). Along with that, he is also one of the top penalty killing forwards on the best penalty killing team in the league, and has proven himself to be a threat offensively even when his team is down shorthanded, currently tied for the league in shorthanded points. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins is getting some of the easiest minutes in the league among the top rookies, and has played just a total of one minute and 16 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season.

That said, it can't be ignored that Henrique is already 21 years old while Nugent-Hopkins is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 18. Actually, he's the second-youngest player to have skated in an NHL game this season, having been born just six days after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, who appeared in nine games for the Senators.

He may not be asked to play in tough situations, but his performance is still darn impressive given his age.

2) Don't overlook the rookie duo in Philadelphia. The Flyers completely re-tooled their roster over the summer, and halfway through the 2011-12 season they haven't missed a beat as far as being a contender in the Eastern Conference is concerned.

 Losing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter looked like it was going to be a major blow to their forward depth, and while they are definitely a different team from a year ago, they're still boasting an impressive group of forwards, including their two prized rookies Couturier (selected with the draft pick that came from Columbus in exchange for Carter) and Read. Both are among the Flyers' top penalty killing forwards, and among Flyers forwards that have played at least 20 games this season Read is currently facing the fourth-toughest competition on the team.

3) Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, appears to have a lot of faith in Nick Johnson, a player the team picked up on waivers before the season. Not only is he playing, by far, the toughest minutes of any of the top rookies in the NHL (he's currently 11th among rookie scorers) his Qual Comp is the highest of any forward on the Wild roster. Perhaps that faith shouldn't be much of a surprise given the connections both have to the Pittsburgh organization (Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, while Yeo was a former assistant).

Of course, age once again needs to be taken into account. While Johnson is playing tougher minutes than all of these other rookies, he's also by far the oldest player on the chart having already turned 26 back in December. A 26-year-old rookie and an 18-year-old rookie aren't exactly the same thing.

Taking into account performance, assignments and age I'd still choose Henrique as the top rookie in the NHL this season (so far), with Nugent-Hopkins, Read and Craig Smith coming in just behind.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:16 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 10:59 am
 

Watch: Craig Smith's incredible empty net miss

By: Adam Gretz

Nashville's Craig Smith is an early contender, if not the early favorite, for the NHL's rookie of the year award, entering Thursday's game against Toronto tied for the team lead in scoring, as well as the league-wide in scoring among rookies with 14 points

Late in the third period of the Predator's 4-1 win over Toronto, he made a play that will probably be left off of his rookie highlight reel by missing an empty net from point-blank range, completely firing the puck over the cage ... and then celebrating what he thought was a goal, all while the goal horn went off in the background.



The "what?!" reaction of Predators coach Barry Trotz at the 10-second mark on the bench is incredible.

For years, Patrick Stefan's epic miss in Edmonton, when he was a member of the Dallas Stars, was the empty net miss that all others were measured against, but this one might give it a run for its money. The only thing Smith's has going for it to keep it below Stefan's was that Smith's didn't result in the other team taking the puck the length of the ice and scoring a game-tying goal.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 7:26 pm
 

Predators trade Cal O'Reilly to Phoenix

COR1By: Adam Gretz

It wasn't that long ago that Cal O'Reilly was an up-and-coming prospect in the Nashville Predators organization, and today he's been traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012.

In 85 games over the past three seasons the 25-year-old O'Reilly scored 11 goals and added 24 assists.

Said Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, “We are very excited to bring Cal to our organization. He is a young, highly skilled player who will help us at the center position. We look forward to having him in our lineup very soon."

The problem O'Reilly ran into in Nashville was that he was simply caught up in a numbers game at this point and was passed over by a number of young players, as well as veteran center Mike Fisher who was acquired prior to last year's trade deadline. The Predators, for all of their struggles offensively this season, have some solid depth down the middle with Fisher and David Legwand, as well as rookie Craig Smith, currently tied for the team lead in points, and fellow youngster Blake Geoffrion. Somebody was going to be the odd man out, and seeing as how O'Reilly has been a healthy scratch at various points throughout this season, it's not much of a surprise that he ends up drawing the short straw.

For Phoenix it's a nice example of buying low on a talented young player that still has a bit of upside, especially when it's at a position of weakness at the NHL level.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 13, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 8:21 pm
 

Craig Smith and other prospect tournament news



By: Adam Gretz

By now you probably already know the story of the Nashville Predators and the way they have to construct their roster.

They don't have the funds at their disposal to acquire many big-name players in free agency or the trade market, and they may even struggle to keep the star players they draft and develop themselves (like defenseman Shea Weber, for example). The key to maintaining a competitive team on the ice is to have a steady pipeline of young, low-cost, homegrown talent flowing through the farm system.

In recent years they've done an admirable job putting together a playoff caliber team while playing in what is one of the toughest divisions in the NHL -- the Central Division -- going up against two Original Six power houses in Chicago and Detroit. They've qualified for the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons, and this past season advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

One of the prospects that has been gaining plenty of attention over the past year is their fourth-round pick from 2009, forward Craig Smith, who has spent the past two seasons playing at the University of Wisconsin. During the Predators prospects game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, Smith managed to score four goals (highlight video shown above; Smith is wearing No. 15) in a 7-3 win, before adding two more goals against the Florida Panthers prospects on Tuesday.

That's six goals in two games, and perhaps the most impressive performance of any player in any of the ongoing prospect tournaments.

Earlier this summer Smith represented the United States at the World Hockey Championships in Slovakia, and despite being the only collegiate player on the roster, finished as one of the leading scorers on the team, scoring three goals to go with three assists in seven games. Prior to that, he was the second-leading scorer for Wisconsin with 19 goals and 24 assists in 41 games.

The step from rookie tournaments in early September to the NHL during the regular season is, obviously, a massive one, but Smith's performance at all levels over the past year is an encouraging sign for the Predators organization. He's taken advantage of every chance he's been given and established himself as a player that may have some sort of NHL future.

Here are a few other notable performances from the many tournaments that are currently taking place.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks: A year ago Brandon Saad was projected to be one of the first North American players off the board during the 2011 draft. His stock dropped a little during the season and he was eventually selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the middle of the second round. Saad was also left off the 2011 World Junior roster earlier this year, and is using that as a motivational tool as he described in an interview with Erin Nicks of NHL.com. The Blackhawks rookies are taking part in the Oshawa Rookie Tournament, and Saad, a power forward from the Pittsburgh area, has five points in his first two games. He has great size (already listed at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds) and plenty of upside, and looked to be a nice find in the second-round right from the start. His early performance here has only reinforced that.

Here's what Ted Dent, the head coach of the Rockford Ice Dogs who is also coaching the Blackhawks rookies at the tournament, had to say about Saad's early performance, via NHL.com:
"I didn't know much about Brandon coming into the tournament this weekend, but I've been very impressed. He puts the puck hard to the net; he has good hockey sense, as well. He's been very good the past few games. I know a situation like missing out on the World Junior Championship would be a huge disappointment, but this is another chance for him to make an impression on those who see him. I think he'll continue to take advantage of that fact."
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: For the second year in a row the Edmonton Oilers had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and used it on playmaking center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's making his Oilers debut at the Young Stars Tournament, and while his first appearance on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks didn't result in the type of goal-scoring clinic that we saw from Smith or Saad, observers, including Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun, came away extremely impressed with his playmaking ability, on-ice vision and awareness. He's still a little on the small side (not as big of an issue as it used to be in the NHL), and the debate as to whether or not he should open the season in the NHL continues to rage on in Edmonton and across the league. But the early returns, for what they are based on one game against other rookies, are promising.

The Winnipeg Jets: Finally, fans of the Winnipeg Jets have been able to get their first look at players wearing the new uniforms, the surest sign of all that hockey is officially back in Winnipeg. It may not be the NHL roster playing a real game, but it's a start. Their rookies made their debut on Monday night against the San Jose Sharks prospects and picked up a 4-0 win, with the first goal going to Levko Koper. Mark Scheifele, the Jets first-round pick this past season (No. 7 overall) added a shorthanded goal in the win. You can check out the highlights in this video from the Jets website.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com