Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Someone you should know: Dalton Smith

Last year, OHL winger Kyle Clifford surprised a lot of people when he went off the board at the NHL draft 35th overall to the Los Angeles Kings despite not being invited to the draft combine.

This year, one player who has been compared to bit to Clifford in terms of his overall gritty game and under-the-radar rise is Ottawa 67's left winger Dalton Smith (although Central seems to have recognized Smith's potential, because he is in Toronto at the combine this week).

Not a great skater, his top-end speed is just average and his get-up-and-go needs work. However, he's a tremendous competitor who finishes his checks, outworks opponents along the boards and down low, and demonstrates soft hands and a finishing touch. He'll also drop the gloves and is considered to be a pretty tough customer (albeit a fighter in the middleweight class at 6-1, 195) by the scouts I've talked to.

Overshadowed by some higher-profile teammates (at least among Central scouting and internet message boards) like Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale (scouts I've spoken to are not big fans of either), Smith scored 21 goals and 44 points in 62 games for the 67's this season, adding 129 minutes in the box. This was his first full season in the OHL after spending 17 games with the club in 2008-09 (he split between Ottawa and the OJHL's Whitby Fury) as a fourth-liner.

Smith worked himself up to the top line this season, and while he doesn't have the kind of scoring upside in the pros that would see him land in the first round, he looks like another solid second-rounder.

Red Line Report likes him a lot, and put them in their "underrated" section for the OHL (along with Jr. B defender Julian Melchiori whom I also like as a potential Bruins pick. Jeff Skinner, Christian Thomas, Ryan Spooner and Swiss winger Alain Berger were also listed) in their April bulletin, saying: Hard-working grinder has a bit of talent, enough to see him land on the 67's first line and a key component in their second-half resurgence. His skating needs work, but we view him as kind of a poor man's Kyle Clifford.

Back in January, they had Smith listed as their 14-best OHL player, but you can expect that given his strong performance to close out the season and in the playoffs, he'd probably be inside the top, moving ahead of Devante Smith-Pelly, John McFarland, Brock Beukeboom and Brandon Archibald if one had to guess.

Smith isn't a bad player to tab at the 45th selection if he's on the board (and let's say for example Justin Shugg is not), but in the end, it all comes down to where a team views a player like Smith and whether they think he's capable of chipping in around 20 goals or so at the highest level, but bringing that kind of toughness and drive teams recognize that you win with. He's not the kind of ferocious winger whose toughness and goal scoring skill can change the face of a game on a single shift like Milan Lucic did in junior, nor is he as tough as Shawn Thornton, but he's close.

The skating and lack of pure upside will drop him, but Smith is one of those guys who just screams Bruins archetype pick to me, so he's definitely one to watch. And, he scored just seven fewer goals than Clifford did for Barrie. If Clifford can go 35, then Smith will probably go somewhere in the same vicinity.

Watch where he goes in L.A., and don't be at all surprised if it happens to be sooner rather than later.

3 comments:

  1. Hey Kirk,

    It's nice to finally see an Ottawa 67 mentioned. Although the Sharks are the team most likely to select 67s, Chia's Ottawa connections makes it entirely possible for your Bruins too. I thought I'd add my opinion on Smith and Toffoli.

    It's interesting you compare him to Clifford. I see that, but I think Clifford's got slightly better skating, whereas Smith might have a bit more skill. Smith also doesn't have the U18s under his belt, which is the only reason Clifford even got a sniff of the second round probably. Your description of Smith is fairly good I think. He might be a bit taller than your listed height, he always looks about 6'2" to me, but he could stand to bulk up. I doubt he'll ever have the pure power of a guy like Lucic.

    Personally, I think Smith is a late second to early third round guy. I could see him scoring 20 goals in the NHL, but he'd have to upgrade his skating and ability to play off the rush and in transition. There are a number of things to like though. He's a late June birthday and his father was an NHLer too, all good things.

    I have to say though, I disagree with your sources on Toffoli. Martindale's an enigma, and I could write a book trying to figure him out, but I think Toffoli's legit. After the first couple of weeks, his production was right there with Hall and Seguin. His skating isn't great, speed can be improved, but it's not a great stride. But there is so much else to like. He's so smart, has a great release, and has been adding a feistiness as he matures and takes on more responsibility.

    In a way he's kind of a goal scoring version of Krejci, similar in that you might not appreciate him at first glance, and he doesn't have the skating you'd expect of a skill player at that size. But just great hockey sense, knows how to play to his strengths, and shows the intangibles to keep improving. I'm not quite sure he's got the same pure upside as Krejci, but a bit more of an edge than DK had in Gatineau. Honestly, from watching the 67s, anywhere after 20 and Toffoli's a great pick. Out of the first round, he's a steal.

    Sean.

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  2. Thanks for the update, Hoss.

    Clifford isn't my comparison, it's Red Line's, but I see what you are saying. Everyone says the skating is Smith's biggest hurdle to overcome, but the same thing was said about Milan Lucic, too. He's worked out pretty well so far, down season aside (and I attribute that more to the high ankle sprain than anything else).

    As for Toffoli, can only go with what I'm told. NHL guy (and a damn good one) thinks his skating is only average and compete levels go up and down depending on the situation. Doesn't doubt the hands and overall skill and scoring instincts Toffoli has, but thinks he's overrated for the most part and feels that Smith's heart and drive in Toffoli would make Toff a top-10. He just doesn't bring it all the time.

    Potay-to, Po-tahto. Maybe Toffoli is an option for the B's, especially since he had good chemistry with Seguin at the Ivan Hlinka, but not the archetypal Boston pick.

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