28-Year-Old Right Wing – Nashville Predators
Craig Smith Contract Information:
Signed a five-year, $21.25 million contract extension with the Predators in July 2015.
Smith scored his first point of the season in Tuesday's 6-5 win over Philadelphia, notching a first-period power-play goal.
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Age is determined on October 1st of each season.No Yes
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
The Preds have to be concerned about Smith, who saw his offensive output decline for the second consecutive season last year (37 points in 82 games). The trouble is, the team signed him to a five-year, $21.25 million contract extension last July, hoping he would show signs of the player who scored a career-high 52 points two seasons ago. Oddly enough, his goal-scoring has remained relatively consistent – he notched 24, 23, and most recently 21 tallies in the past three seasons – but his assist total dropped to a brutal 16 last year (just over half his tally from two years ago). That could be the result of being flipped between the second and third lines for a good portion of the season, as Smith ended up with his lowest average ice time since 2012-13. With four years remaining on his contract, the Preds have little choice but to keep rolling Smith as their everyday No. 2 right winger in the hopes that he’s finally able to put it all together. There’s hope yet, as this is only his age-27 season, but his offensive upside is limited to about 50 points and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him get usurped by one of the team’s up-and-coming young forwards.
After breaking out for 24 goals and 52 points in 2013-14, Smith put together another successful campaign last season, notching 23 goals and 44 points in 82 games. The 25-year-old was a force with the man advantage, lighting the lamp six times and adding three assists. Not only is he turning into a reliable and consistent 20-goal scorer, but Smith also showed that he could help fantasy owners in other categories by gathering 44 PIM, putting 252 shots on goal, and finishing with a plus-11 mark last season. With the scoring fairly spread out in Nashville, Smith probably doesn't have the ability to take another notable leap, but he should offer the sort of stable, predictable offensive production that most fantasy rosters could certainly use.
Smith finished the 2013-14 season on a relative tear, notching 11 points in his last 10 games, allowing him to finish third on the team in scoring with a career-high 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists). The impressive finish also allowed him to set career-bests across just about every other offensive category, including shots on goal (215), shooting percentage (11.2%) and plus-minus (plus-16). He’s positioned to fill a feature role with the Predators in 2014-15, perhaps even as a member of the top line. Furthermore, given that the Preds are now deeper up front, Smith will also enjoy a significantly-improved supporting cast, which should also enhance his continued development as a bona fide top-six NHL forward. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on Smith in the middle rounds of your draft -- the upside is there to make him a possible breakout player this season.
Smith fell into the dreaded sophomore slump last year after registering 36 points in 72 games during as a rookie in 2011-12. Last year, he tallied just 12 points in 44 games and even spent some time at AHL Milwaukee to get his game together following a lengthy slump. At 23 years of age, Smith still has a distance to go before he enters his peak scoring years, so the Preds are understandably being patient with him. Looking ahead, he should open this season as the team's second-line right winger. But on an offensively-challenged squad, Smith's totals will likely be low.
Smith started his rookie season with a bang back in October, scoring 14 points in his first 15 games. However, it took him another 32 games to score his next 14 points, and he finished the season with just 36 in 72 games, seeing the majority of his ice time in a checking-line role. It was very likely a case of rookie fatigue setting in for the highly-skilled youngster last season, a situation he should be able to avoid this year. He continues to have tremendous upside – draft accordingly.