BostonBruins.com - When the July 4th seven-player trade with Dallas was announced, most of the focus was on the proven NHL players in the mix - most notably, the B's acquisition of Loui Erkisson. But Boston acquired a trio of young prospects on that day as well that included winger Reilly Smith.
"He’s a slick player who will challenge for a spot on our team," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said of Smith.
"Kind of a silky smooth type of right winger, very smart, good vision."
Slick. Silky smooth. Speaking with forward for the first time since joining the B's organization, I wanted to see if he thought of himself in the same light.
"Yeah, I think I envision myself that way," said Smith. "I’m not a guy that’s going to beat most people up, but I try to help out my teammates, be a playmaker, and, when I get the opportunity to score, make sure it goes in the back of the net."
Those "hockey smarts" are what helped him to his 14 goals and 35 points through 45 AHL games in his first pro season with the Texas Stars in 2012-13, and his 122 points (66 goals, 56 assists) that he put up during a three-year college career with Miami of Ohio.
"Definitely a big factor in my game is my vision," he added. "But a lot of great hockey players have that, so I just want to be able to help out Boston any way I can in whatever role they want me to play."
True, the best players have unfathomable vision and the ability to break down their options in fractions of a second while racing down the ice at high speeds and with defenders closing in, but not every player gets to be labeled "silky smooth" by his GM.
The 6'0", 185-pound winger made the jump from college to the AHL last season, a transition that always involves adjustments in terms of lifestyle, conditioning, strength and a tougher, more physical game. B's fans can imagine it to be fairly similar to Torey Krug's own transition year with Providence in 2012-13. Both were contemporaries in college from 2009-12 (with Krug at Michigan State) and both were finalists for the Hobey Baker, before signing with their respective NHL teams.
Smith was recalled three times to Dallas last season, appearing in 37 games with the big club and putting up a 3-6=9 stat line. He alternated wings, and mostly played with Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. On February 15, he was playing up on a line with Loui Eriksson, and scored his first NHL goal with an assist from the new B's winger.
His nine points may not have been the output the winger was looking for at the NHL level, and now that he's broken into the pro ranks, he's working towards much more.
"The first year, you’re just so happy to be there. You’re trying to do a million different things at once instead of focusing on one or two things and using your strength and being confident with them," said Smith of the transition. "I was really glad that Dallas gave me the opportunity to play so many games last year in the NHL. I think it’s given me a really good basis to start the next year."
"I have high expectations for myself. I want to be a player where the team looks at me as someone who can contribute on an everyday basis and someone who’s not a liability on defense."
With the offensive side of his game a clear strength, Smith has been working to improve his two-way play. It's one of the reasons he chose his college route at Miami after skating in a "very offensive" Junior A league in Toronto; he wanted to further develop his defensive game.
It served well in helping him become a better all-around and "more responsible player," as he labels it. In a system built from the back end out, both in Providence and Boston, he'll certainly put that to use right away.
Following training camp, whether he's with the big club or begins the season as a P-Bruin, he's looking forward to being a part of the organization.
"It was pretty crazy," said Smith, of his initial reaction to being traded. He had just finished up a workout with his brother, Brendan, who is part of the Detroit Red Wings organization. They were deciding on lunch, as Reilly glanced through Twitter to check out the news of the day.
"I’m like, 'imagine if I was traded'?" he had jested to his brother, as they saw the Boston and Dallas trade rumors swirling. Knowing what happened next, the experience became surreal for Reilly after that.
"I was really glad to be traded to Boston. It’s a great organization and I can’t wait to get started," said Smith. Not long after becoming a Bruin, he received a congratulatory text from former Miami teammate and current P-Bruin Carter Camper.
"He told me it’s a super group of guys, they really care about each other, and they work as a family. So that’s one of the biggest factors that you want to hear when you’re joining a new team."
Smith may not have much experience in the Black & Gold yet, but he's ready for the next step in his career.
"I’m really excited. It’s a great task and a huge goal that I’ve set for myself," he said, of working towards training camp and competing for a roster spot.
"I just want to be able to be firing on all cylinders by the time I get there and hopefully I can impress enough to stay with the club."