The Chicago Blackhawks won’t see many new faces in their lineup this season, but Ben Smith thinks he’s got it what it takes to join the ‘Hawks full time. Smith was drafted by the Blackhawks back in 2008, and since 2010-11 he has been playing with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.
Smith has spent a fair share of time in the Windy City, playing 20 regular season and eight playoff games, recording 7 points in that stretch. No goal was bigger than Smith’s Game Six overtime winner against the Vancouver Canucks back in 2011. His goal evened the series, one that the Blackhawks trailed 3-0 in.
Smith is a ‘toolbox’ player, and his versatility will come in extremely handy in the event of an injury in the middle of a game, or even long-term. With a game that has matured greatly over the last few seasons, Smith knows that responsible, disciplined play, as well as consistency and a strong work ethic, are going to be what allows him to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup, and most importantly, stay there.
Smith will look to recoup the Blackhawks’ killer depth that took a hit with the trade of Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets in the off-season. Offensively, he will only need to be a compliment to the Blackhawks’ top two lines, and his defensive responsibility will be under the microscope, something he has excelled at in recent years. Smith will be ready to fill those fourth-line minutes, and will get a shot at a spot on the ‘Hawks penalty kill unit, which ranked third in the league in 2013.
Just like rookie standout Brandon Saad in 2013, Smith could make a huge impact in his first season. Although he will not be considered a rookie, he has the opportunity to be one of the best first-year players in the NHL this season. I put his over/under at 10 goals, 15 assists, with a plus/minus of +7. Smith’s individual success will rely on the success of the Blackhawks as a whole; if the team is playing well, he will get the minutes and chances he has worked for over the past 4 seasons.
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