With preseason underway and the 2014-15 regular season on the horizon, AnaheimDucks.com is previewing each player on the roster, highlighting last season’s accomplishments and providing insight into what you can expect this season. Our preview continues with Devante Smith-Pelly.
After the 2010 NHL Draft was complete, the Ducks were heralded as one of the “winners” of the two-day selection process. While much of the talk focused on the Ducks landing prized defenseman Cam Fowler with the 12th overall pick and Long Beach native Emerson Etem at No. 29 (at a draft held in Los Angeles), Anaheim’s 42nd overall pick is emerging as yet another jewel from the club’s highly successful 2010 draft.
“There is nothing like hearing your name called. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Devante Smith-Pelly moments after being drafted by Anaheim on June 26, 2010. “I’m a power forward, a two-way player and a guy who likes to finish all his checks. I can play any kind of role the coach asks.”
And now, four years later, Smith-Pelly’s role is multi-faceted. His versatility allowed head coach Bruce Boudreau to use him in all situations last season, including special teams (both power play and penalty kill) and throughout the lineup.
Smith-Pelly emerged as one of the club’s best performers during the 2014 postseason in which he led the team in goals (five) as the top line’s left wing. His postseason performance, specifically in Game 6 at Dallas when he tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation, was undoubtedly the high point of an up-and-down season primarily spent with Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
During the postseason, Smith-Pelly was asked what parts of his game he felt he improved on during the season. “It sounds cliché or whatever, but just my overall game,” he said. “I think I’ve improved in all three zones, but the thing I think I’ve improved the most is probably my offensive game. I was put in a lot of offensive situations [with Norfolk] and scored a lot of goals. That was huge for my confidence, and it’s something I hope will carry over here.”
There is no doubt regarding his offensive talent and physical play. Smith-Pelly led the Admirals in goal scoring and finished with 43 points in 55 games, and at the time of his recall in April, Smith-Pelly had set AHL career highs in goals and points. He collected his first career AHL hat trick on February 18 at Charlotte and had a five-game goal streak (5g/2a), from January 3-12.
But his consistency at the NHL level has always been a focal point in his young career. He made a splash in 2011-12 when he made his debut with Anaheim, earning 13 points (7g/6a) in 49 contests, and leading all Ducks rookies in appearances, goals, assists, scoring, shots (66) and time-on-ice (590:09). Smith-Pelly became the second-youngest player to score a shorthanded goal in club history (19 years, 9 months), on March 18 vs. Nashville, and became the third-youngest Duck to appear in an NHL contest when the team opened the season on October 7 against Buffalo in Helsinki, Finland.
Smith-Pelly only appeared in seven NHL games the following season, going scoreless, and skated in 19 contests with the Ducks last season before his impressive postseason performance.
He was a restricted free agent this offseason, and didn’t come to terms on a new contract until just a few days before training camp opened. But Smith-Pelly says he was never concerned that negotiations would conflict with the start of camp. “I knew something would get done right before camp,” he said. “I wasn’t just sitting around and hanging out. I was still working hard back home, and just ready for it to get done.”
His contract will take him through the 2015-16 season, and Smith-Pelly says the inconsistencies of his past are, hopefully, a thing of the past. “That’s always been a thing with me,” he said. “I’ve been pretty inconsistent sometimes, but that’s something I’ve worked on the last couple of years. Hopefully I can put it together for the full 82 games and play my best hockey.”
He’ll begin this season with a new number – a lower number – than his previous No. 77. Smith-Pelly says there really isn’t any significance behind No. 12, other than that being his number during his younger years.
“I was number 12 when I was younger. Out of the numbers that were available, that was pretty much the best one, I thought. I went with that.”