Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A Look At Toronto Maple Leafs Center Trevor Smith

Few would have predicted Trevor Smith to be where he is today as a full-time member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Trevor took an unusual path for a Canadian with NHL aspirations. Born in Ottawa in February of 1985 (age 28), Smith never played in the CHL like many young prospects. Instead in 2002 he joined up with the South Surrey Eagles of the BCHL (British Columbia Hockey League) playing in 102 games with two clubs (second season with the Quesnel Millionaires) and scoring 69 points. He spent the next season with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL notching over a point per game in his 60 game season and 3 goals in his 5 playoff games in his only season with the club. This was apparently enough to impress some NCAA scouts. Smith was never selected in the NHL entry draft.

For the next season Smith made the transition to college hockey. The upper tiers of the NCAA are very good, and many NHL players make their way through college before entering professional hockey however it is typically American NHL players who made that journey, making Smith’s journey unusual especially given that he did not enter college straight after high school. Smith played two pretty good years with the University of New Hampshire, leading the team in scoring during his second and last season of NCAA hockey.

At the end of his final NCAA season in the same year Trevor Smith was signed to an entry level deal by the New York Islanders, playing 8 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL before the end of the season. During the 2007-2008 season, Trevor split time between the AHL and ECHL playing a total of 22 games of tier-3 professional hockey in the ECHL and recording underwhelming numbers with the Tigers. The next year things turned around for Smith, playing in his first 7 NHL games recording one point, his first ever NHL goal while putting up over 60 points in the AHL.

Allowed to pass into free agency, Smith was signed by the Anaheim Ducks only to be traded January 4th of that season to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nate Guenin (24 games played for Colorado this year with 3 points and 12 penalty minutes). Once again a free agent at the end of that season, he signed a one year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning  for whom he played the majority of the year with the Norfolk Admirals. A year later before the 2012-2013 season Smith signed on for another one year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was assigned to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins due to the NHL Lockout and was only able to play a single game with the Pens of Pittsburgh that season.

Arrival In Toronto

On July 5 of this year, Trevor inked a one year, one-way contract (needs to pass through waivers unless assigned due to injury) and after a pretty good (though not exceptional) showing in training camp Smith was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. Shortly thereafter Trevor Smith was named the Marlies’ fifth-ever captain since their 2005 relocation to Toronto.

He wasn’t given much time to settle into his captaincy role, as injuries forced an AHL call-up and soon after being named captain of his new team Smith was leaving them for the show to play as a fill-in centre for the Leafs. Smith has only played 7 games in the AHL this season (four goals, seven assists), more than doubling that number for the Leafs.

Smith has taken his opportunity with the Leafs and done some pretty good things with it so far. Smith has looked like an NHL player for the most part, managing 3 goals and 3 assists in the 14 games leading up to last night’s against the Habs. He’s been given limited minutes so far, averaging only 8.52 minutes/60 minutes of ice time but with that time his lines have managed just over +8% zone start:finish showing himself to be a pretty good transition player.

November 30 vs Montreal

Trevor Smith was once again called upon to play a valuable but limited role in tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Smith played in two different line configurations, with neither really struggling and both seeming to spend the majority of their time in the offensive zone.

First Period

Smith’s line got out of the gate early, starting the game as the opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith started on the left wing with Nikolai Kulemin on the right side and Jay McClement down the middle. This shift came to an early end as Carl Gunnarsson took an early interference penalty to put Montreal on the powerplay which they would capitalize on.

Smith brought out the proverbial lunchbox for his next shift, he would take a solid check from the monstrous Douglas Murray before bouncing back up and continuing to maintain the puck through a hard forecheck.

On his next shift against a tired Montreal squad stuck on after icing the puck Smith would immediately go to the net to set up the screen. The puck never reached the net, however and the puck returned to the Toronto end before being brought back into the zone for a Leafs shot on goal.

His last shift came immediately after the P.K. Subban goal, with Smith lining up at centre the Leafs would quickly try to enter the zone but be caught offside ending Smith’s shift and period.

Second Period

Off a defensive zone faceoff, Smith’s line would quickly clear the zone before Trevor and his line mates successfully held the blueline forcing the Montreal attackers offside.

The next shift Trevor started to pick up his attacking game. A Paul Ranger shot forced wide of the net had Smith making a dangerous interception at the high slot. Smith would circle around and fire from Carey Price‘s blocker side with McClement in front to try to bang the rebound home. Price once again holds on to it sending the players off for a TV timeout.

After another Montreal goal Smith is once again on to take the centre-ice faceoff. Trevor’s line would get a pretty good shot off in between icing the puck twice and the shift would end with Alex Galchenyuk hitting Smith from behind into the boards, creating a powerplay on which James van Riemsdyk would score an absolute beauty from in tight. 4-1 Montreal.

At this point Carlyle seemingly rewards Smith, putting him on in Nazem Kadri‘s place centering Mason Raymond and David Clarkson. Raymond would quickly benefit from the change in company, banging home a rebound from a Paul Ranger shot to make it 4-2 with Montreal still ahead. Smith would be beat by Max Pacioretty between his own hash marks later in the shift giving up a shot before the whistle went to end the shift.

End of  Second Period

Interestingly enough, after two goals for which Trevor Smith was at least partially responsible, CBC’s Glenn Healy takes the opportunity to rip on the Kulemin-Smith-McClement line, questioning why the Leafs would have them on to respond to a Habs goal. The panel is quick to jump to the defense of Jay McClement, though he has arguably been the least impressive of the three as of late. Either way these three players had played key minutes through 40, effectively shutting down their opponents and drastically limiting their shots.

Third Period

Again with Clarkson and Raymond, Smith starts his period carrying the puck across centre ice dumping it in before he reaches the blue line. He would pressure the Montreal puck carrier from behind causing a turnover and immediately go to the net for the shot which would be saved to end the shift.

Next Smith will lose an offensive zone faceoff allowing the puck to be cleared leading to a shot from Pacioretti which was covered up by Jonathan Bernier.

Smith made a bit of a lapse on his next shift, making an ill-advised pursuit of the puck carrier behind his own net on Bernier’s glove side. He would make up for the indiscretion by throwing two pretty good body checks against newly found arch-nemesis Max Paccoretti and Alexei Emelin who was surprisingly on the wrong side of the opposing blue line.

A scary moment for the team as fellow centreman Jay McClement leaves the ice with what looks like an ankle injury, he would be back after Smith’s next shift however and appears to be okay going forward.

Smith has a solid two-way shift against some top Montreal players including Subban, Smith shows his solid transition game off moving the puck up the ice before passing it to a teammate at the blue line.

Trevor would end the game with one last shift off a lost offensive zone faceoff, Smith would help breaking up a dangerous looking cross crease pass and would sit the game as the Leafs tried to make up their two goal deficit in the dying minutes.

End of Game

The game ended as a 4-2 victory for the Canadiens. Montreal had 39 shots compared to 36 for Toronto. Here’s the full box score.

Trevor Smith would finish the game with 10 minutes and 40 seconds of ice time, three shots, three hits and a 40 per cent win rating in the faceoff circle.

Going Forward

If Trevor Smith can maintain his current level of play he’s likely to remain an NHL player somewhere in the league. He works much better with better linemates so he’ll likely find himself sitting out quite often if he’s with a top-tier team, but his good puck movement should make him an asset in a league that’s becoming increasingly about two-way transition play.

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