CHICAGO -- The Anaheim Ducks are prepared to pay the price to keep 19-year-old rookie forward Devante Smith-Pelly longer than the nine games if they want to take a longer look.
Smith-Pelly, a two-way forward with a big body, is currently playing the wing on the Ducks’ third line. He’s recorded just one assist in seven games with a minus-3 rating, but his defensive ability and physicality (11 hits) are intriguing to Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle.
“(He’s a) big physical winger that has to play the body to be effective,” Carlyle said. “If he’s not skating and playing the body, he just becomes another player out there. He’s a 19-year-old kid we’re asking a lot of to play a third-line role for us, but again, that’s what it’s about.”
If the Ducks opt to keep Smith-Pelly longer than nine games, his time clock for NHL free agency would start with Game 10. They could still return him to the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors later in the season, but the season would count toward his eventual NHL free agency instead of counting as a junior season if he’s sent back before or at the nine-game mark.
Smith-Pelly hopes to make it a very tough decision no matter what the Ducks decide.
“I talked to (Ducks General Manager) Bob Murray and he said that nine-game mark … he’s not too worried about burning a year on the contract or whatever,” Smith-Pelly said on Tuesday. “He says as long as I deserve to be here I will be. If or when that time comes, if I don’t deserve to be here I won’t … whether it’s seven games, 10 games or 80 games. That kind of makes me feel like I’m doing some things right and making the decision pretty hard on them.”