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Canadiens 2015 Top 25 Under 25: #15 Devante Smith-Pelly

Up next on the list is a first-timer: Devante Smith-Pelly makes his debut at number 15.

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Devante Smith-Pelly. What can I say about him that hasn't already been said by hundreds if not thousands of angry internet dwellers? A lot, so pay attention. Hey, you in the back ... give me the gum.

It's hard not to hear Smith-Pelly's name and instantly cringe due to a trade involving a certain untapped Czech late-bloomer with undeniable skill. When Smith-Pelly was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks a lot of fans were immediately sour on on the new member of the Canadiens,  just because of how much they liked the player the Habs gave up on: Jiri Sekac.

The trade brought up a myriad of issues within the Habs fanbase, the most prominent being the fact that a highly skilled player was traded away because the coach didn't feel said player was a fit in his system. That's definitely unfair to Smith-Pelly.

Photo credit: USA Today Sports

Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin's explanation of the trade was a bit confusing as well:

"I see Jiri more as a player who is quick; a bit less speed, but more quick," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters after the trade. "Those are the terms we use. From [point] A to [point] B he's really fast, but over a long distance he's not the fastest player. He's really good down low and in the corners. But in that sense I don't think we lose anything with Devante, who is not as fast. He's a big guy. He's not a speed demon, but he'll go into the tough areas and for us that was something we found attractive."

To try and break that down:

Jiri Sekac: Not fast but quick. Not fast over a long distance. Really good down low and in the corners (tough areas).

Devante Smith-Pelly: Not as fast as Sekac. Big guy. Not a speed demon. Goes into tough areas.

As head-scratching as that may be, it's quite obvious that Marc Bergevin thought that Smith-Pelly brought more to the table for the Habs than Sekac, and in a sense he was technically right.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the fans were still sour on this newly-acquired youngster albeit for an entirely different reason: he struggled to keep up from day one.

smith pelly header


smith pelly votes

The votes were all over the place when it came to this polarizing player. He received five votes in the top 10, nine votes in the 11-20 range, three votes from 21-25, and one vote outside of the top 25. If you're looking for a unanimous opinion, you've come to the wrong place.


Smith-Pelly's strengths can be taken pretty literally, in the sense that his strength is his strength. There's no denying that he's a big body whose game is based off of crashing the net, capitalizing off of re-directions and and rebounds.

Here he drives the net and capitalizes on a turnover for the easy goal.

You can see a pattern here. Smith-Pelly is all over the Boston defense (Brendan Gallagher eat your heart out), cheats a bit, gains position and gets the tip for the goal.

While this method may be his most preferred, he does have other tools in his box. He possesses a strong wrist shot with the ability to flat-out beat goaltenders.

As advertised, he throws his body around with the best of them. Between Anaheim and Montreal's regular seasons he had 192 hits. That's 10 more than the closest Hab, Alexei Emelin.

He can also do this, which would be pretty cool if he did it several times in a Habs jersey


The issue with Smith-Pelly is consistency. He does a lot of things well he just doesn't do them often enough.

He needs to improve his shooting. He clocked in at 4.1% in unblocked shooting in all situations last season and that came from 83 shots on goal on 149 attempts.

His shot and unblocked shot attempt differential leaves something to be desired coming in at -95% and -69% respectively. It's no secret that he isn't a strong possession player, so expecting great numbers here wouldn't be logical, as he does excel in that department.

The focus should be on the shooting percentage and scoring chances, because he simply does execute the plays that he was advertised to enough. He had 78 individual scoring chances, and 37 of those were deemed high danger scoring chances. He ranked ninth on the team in both categories and his 4.1% unblocked shooting percentage has him ranked near the bottom of the team table.

Simply put, did not meet Habs fans' expectations. The main advertisement and talking point centered around his playoff performance and many fans gave him a pass on the regular season, waiting to see how he would perform in the playoffs.

While he did lead all skaters in hits, the offensive production that many hoped for and expected was almost non-existent. He earned three points in 12 games (1 goal, 1 primary and secondary assist) and put up a 1.36 on-ice goals-for per 60 minutes rating. It's also worth noting that his skating isn't particularly great, nor is his endurance.


It depends on whether or not his shooting percentage can normalize. You have to think that it will rise to the mean, but his highest shooting percentage in his short career is 9.5%, and 5.9% unblocked, which that doesn't give us a lot of room for optimism.

There was talk from Michel Therrien about his newly acquired "power forward" was not up to snuff in the fitness department so perhaps an off-season with a more intense training regime will do him some good, and lead to more production.

Due to his relatively young age, there's still hope that he'll improve his game, and become a positive asset for the Canadiens. As his general manager often says: It's up to him. This will be a key season in Smith-Pelly's career, that could see him establish himself as an important piece of the Montreal Canadiens puzzle, or fade away into the realm of waivers.