Upon being drafted in 2016 by the Red Wings, management knew exactly what type of player they were getting with Givani Smith. He has the build of a prototypical power forward and plays with a high level of physicality in his game. Two years later and not much has changed in terms of playing style. He is still very much a powerful player relying on force rather than finesse to score while also trying to knock opponents off their game with heavy checking play. The question that’s being asked is can he relay his style of play to be an effective pro hockey player; and is the jump from #17 last year to #15 this year warranted?
Position: Right Wing
Born: February 27, 1998 (Age: 20)
Birthplace: Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
Drafted: 2016, Round 2, 46th Overall
Current Team: Grand Rapids Griffins
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205 lbs
Recent Stats: 2017/18 OHL, Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers, 46GP, 17G, 13A, 50 PIM
When looking at Givani Smith, it’s very clear that his physicality is one of his best assets. Smith is able to play a mean game using his large build to bully his opponents and own the ice in front of their net. But it’s not all “grit” for Smith as he is also able to pair another trait that isn’t often seen from a player that plays his physical style, Smith’s a quick footed skater. This will help him as he moves to the pro game and will find himself playing against a lot more players his size and larger. Often times prospects who were able to push other junior players around become too reliant on that skill set and fizzled out when the competition becomes more rugged. Smith should have the speed to keep up at the next level.
One area of improvement for him, as noted by his most recent coach in Kitchener is to continue improving his hands. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be the type of player who has the puck on his stick long other than along the boards. Also of note, and it’s well documented, is Smith needs to better find the line of being aggressive while not taking so many penalties. Leading the OHL in PIMs for two consecutive seasons is not exactly a positive note on the scouting report.
Looking at just his statistics it might be cause for concern that he didn’t really show any growth since his draft season scoring 23 goals in 2015-16 and then 26 and 17 respectively in the following two seasons. Keep in mind that last season he played 20 games less than his first two seasons after suffering an injury during the Red Wings training camp. His points per game totals remained relatively steady across all 3 seasons. It’s at least slightly disappointing that he didn’t improve these totals as he matured. However it should be worth noting that he had a strong playoff performance last season with 11 goals and 7 assists in 18 games for the Kitchener Rangers. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for Smith rather than a blip on the statistical radar.
This will be a telling season for Smith as he turns pro playing for Grand Rapids. He won’t be able to impose his will the way he did in the OHL. It will be interesting to see if he can still use his physicality to his advantage while finding a way to chip in offensively.
The hope is Smith can use a combination of speed and checking ability to at least carve out a checking line role, and at best develop into a Top 6 power forward. That versatility will be useful in helping him make the Red Wings lineup one day. If he can develop better discipline as he moves forward with his career, he could certainly develop into a pest type player teams love to have and hate to play against. Smith is likely in need of at least 2 to 3 seasons of refining his skill and discipline in the AHL before getting a chance at some NHL action.
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WIIM Top 25 Under 25 Rankings So Far
16. Vili Saarijarvi, Grand Rapids, AHL
17. Keith Petruzelli, Quinnipiac University, NCAA
18. Dominic Turgeon, Grand Rapids, AHL
19. Gustav Lindstrom, Frolunda, SHL
20. Jared McIsaac, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
21. Filip Larsson, University of Denver, NCAA
22. Christoffer Ehn, Frolunda, SHL
23. Alex Regula, London Knights, OHL
24. Axel Holmstrom, Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL
25. Jack Adams, Union College, NCAA