I’m doing a daily review of each Chicago Blackhawks player and giving out grades based on performance during the 2013-14 season thus far. Today, we examine Ben Smith.
2013-14 has been Smith’s first full season in the NHL, and as far as fourth-liners are concerned, he has been a revelation. He has been a great fit with Brandon Bollig and Marcus Kruger, meshing nicely with their affinity for controlling the puck on the boards and cycling in the offensive zone. Unlike other rookies (namely Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri), Joel Quenneville has significant trust in Smith’s defensive game and has even used he, Bollig, and Kruger in a shutdown role a number of times.
Generally, if a fourth-line player who doesn’t get any power play time is in the neighborhood of 20 points after completing the 82-game season, it’s a very nice offensive year. Smith already has 18, and has managed that in just 54 games and with an almost comically low offensive zone start percentage of 20 percent. To have managed such solid production anyway is simply another exemplification of how strong his play has been this year.
Smith almost never takes penalties, averaging 0.1 per 60 minutes. In the same time frame, he draws 1.0 penalty on the opposition. The +0.9 differential is the largest on Chicago’s roster, just edging out Andrew Shaw‘s +0.8.
Final Verdict: A
He has performed his role admirably, but like Shaw has not been quite good enough to warrant the best grade available.