Gerard Gallant, Jonathan Marchessault and Marc-Andre Fleury have received most of the praise for the Golden Knights’ incredible postseason run (rightfully so), but forward Reilly Smith has also played a significant role in Vegas’ success.
Smith has found the back of the net just once during the playoffs, but he’s accumulated 14 points in 12 games and he’s collected at least one point in 10 of those contests. Of his 13 assists, nine have been of the primary variety, including the two he picked up on goals by Marchessault in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
He was one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, but the 27-year-old’s production wasn’t unexpected after he posted a career-high 60 points during the regular season while playing on the left side of Vegas’ top line with William Karlsson and Marchessault.
One of the impressive things about Smith and the Golden Knights first line is that they don’t get all the offensive zone starts that some of the other dominant lines in hockey get. According to Natural Stat Trick, 43.75 percent of Smith’s zone starts have come in the offensive zone this postseason.
“That top line, when they get going and they make some plays and they’ve got some time and space like they did, they score a couple of beautiful goals,” Gallant said of his top line after Game 2. “They were really good and they were strong defensively, also. Great game from that line.”
Smith has also found way to have his CF% per over 50 percent in all but three games and of the Golden Knights forwards that have played at least 10 games, Smith ranks fourth in CF% (54.78) behind Karlsson, Marchessault and Ryan Carpenter.
Not bad for a guy who was acquired from the Florida Panthers as part of a salary dump.
Sure, he could stand to chip in with a few more goals between now and whenever Vegas’ season ends, but he’s still getting shots on goal. His 28 shots rank fourth on the team, but his shooting percentage of 3.6 percent is lowest among forwards that have scored. You’d have to think that the number will climb a little bit in the near future.
Regardless of what happens to the Golden Knights in this series, they can rest easy knowing that they stole a player like Smith. And if they do go all the way, he’ll certainly be one of the key reasons for that.