Not only did Reilly Smith lead expansion Vegas in points in that team’s Stanley Cup final run, his 17 assists and 22 points were both Miami alumni playoff records.
In the final series alone, he posted three goals and three helpers, recording multiple points twice during the Golden Knights’ historic run vs. eventual champion Washington.
Dan Boyle held the previous RedHawks record with 16 points in 2010-11 during San Jose’s postseason run.
Smith is second all-time to Boyle in Stanley Cup playoff points with 35. Boyle notched 81 during his 17-season NHL career.
During the regular season, Smith blew away the field, leading 11 former Miamians by posting 60 points on 22 goals and 38 assists and tallying a plus-31 rating.
Here is a look at some of the other highlights by ex-RedHawks during the 2017-18 regular season and playoffs:
NHL: Smith and defenseman Andy Greene both eclipsed the 200-point mark in the NHL. Greene ended the season with three goals and 10 assists for the New Jersey Devils.
Smith is now fourth all-time on the Miami leaderboard with 247 points, and Greene ranks fifth with 210.
– It was forward Blake Coleman’s first full NHL season, and he thrived, rolling up 13 goals and 12 assists in 75 games as Greene’s teammate on the Devils. He also scored twice in five postseason games.
After dressing just once for Winnipeg in 2016-17, Jack Roslovic played in 31 games for the Jets this season, going 5-9-14, and he also logged 10 playoff games in which he picked up three helpers.
Roslovic forced his way into the NHL with 35 points in 32 AHL games.
Louie Belpedio made the most of his first and only NHL appearance. He dished for two assists in his debut and finished the game plus-1.
AHL: Defenseman Vincent LoVerde won his second Calder Cup championship, and he tallied a pair of assists in Game 7 of the final to help Toronto secure that title.
LoVerde also skated that trophy with Manchester in 2014-15. He has played in 364 AHL games in six seasons, posting 141 points, and has been on the ice for 65 more postseason contests.
Providence’s Austin Czarnik finished third in the league in points with 69 as he eclipsed both the 100- and 150-point marks for his career in this league.
Czarnik was also fourth in the AHL in power play goals (13) despite playing just 64 games because of stints with NHL Boston.
Czarnik was signed by Calgary on Sunday and is expected to compete for a job with the Flames this fall.
Texas’ Curtis McKenzie played against LoVerde’s Toronto team in the championship, and despite falling in the finals, he was the AHL’s leader in postseason goals (11) and power play goals (5).
McKenzie also picked up nine assists for 20 playoff points, ranking second in the postseason.
He will rejoin his former Oxford roommate Smith in Vegas, as he was signed by the Golden Knights last week.
Last season was Carter Camper’s eighth in the AHL, but it was first time he eclipsed 60 points. Camper went 16-45-61 for Cleveland and Tucson, and he added nine more points in the postseason.
Camper, a Cleveland-area native, was dealt to Grand Rapids last week, and when he hits the ice this fall that will be the eighth AHL team for which he will have dressed.
Camper has played in 443 AHL games, scoring 87 times and adding 243 assists for 330 points plus an 18-27-45 line in the playoffs.
ECHL: He had never scored more than 14 goals in any of his previous six pro seasons, but Justin Vaive netted 32 with Cincinnati in 2017-18 at age 29, and he added five more in five playoff games with the Cyclones.
Between the regular and postseasons, Vaive found the net 37 times in 53 games at this level.
After a nightmarish end to his Miami hockeycareer, Jimmy Mullin finally had the chance to prove himself in the pros. And he thrived in Kalamazoo.
Mullin went 21-24-45 in 68 games after a major injury ultimately cost him nearly two seasons.
Speaking of feel-good stories, defensive defenseman Taylor Richart scored 17 goals and assisted on 24 more for 41 points with Utah.
At 5-feet-9, he earned his inaugural call-up to the AHL and went 1-2-3 in two games for San Antonio.
Alex Wideman led all former Miamians with 48 ECHL points. With a line of 16-32-48 in 2017-18, he has 103 regular season points the past two seasons.
SPHL: Mississippi fifth-year pro Devin Mantha set a career high in points with 58. Mantha scored 22 times and earned 36 assists in 56 games, and he went 1-2-3 in three playoff games.
Europe: Andy Miele won the Le Mat Trophy this spring, the Swedish Hockey League’s version of the Stanley Cup, as his Vaxjo team swept Skelleftea in the final.
Miele picked up an assist in the clinching game, a 5-0 win. He finished 1-8-9 in 13 postseason games.
Matt Tomassoni also won a championship, as he was a member of EBEL’s Bolzano Foxes team that won that league’s title in April.
Tomassoni picked up an assist and was plus-2 in Game 7 the 3-2 finale of Bolzano’s championship series.
Here are the final regular season and playoff stats for all former Miamians playing around the world:
FINAL 2017-18 REGULAR SEASON
|Reilly Smith||Vegas Golden Knights||F||67||22||38||60||31||24|
|Blake Coleman||New Jersey Devils||F||79||13||12||25||7||50|
|Alec Martinez||Los Angeles Kings||D||77||9||16||25||3||34|
|Tommy Wingels||Chicago Blackhawks||F||75||9||8||17||-11||45|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||75||6||8||14||-5||40|
|Jack Roslovic||Winnipeg Jets||F||31||5||9||14||5||2|
|Andy Greene||New Jersey Devils||D||81||3||10||13||-9||21|
|Chris Wideman||Ottawa Senators||D||16||3||5||8||5||6|
|Austin Czarnik||Boston Bruins||F||10||0||4||4||-1||0|
|Curtis McKenzie||Dallas Stars||F||7||0||2||2||3||11|
|Louie Belpedio||Minnesota Wild||F||1||0||2||2||1||0|
|Trent Vogelhuber||San Antonio||F||59||4||8||12||-7||26|
|Taylor Richart||San Antonio||D||2||1||2||3||-1||0|
|Matthew Caito||Rapid City||D||28||5||14||19||4||18|
|Conor Lemirande||South Carolina||F||2||0||0||0||-1||2|
|Andy Miele||Vaxjo (SweHL)||F||46||10||22||32||-7||39|
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)||F||52||15||14||29||-1||8|
|Marc Hagel||Lorenskog (Eliteserien)||F||39||16||12||28||-14||86|
|Matt Tomassoni||Bolzano (AUS)||F||54||4||17||21||-3||28|
|Will Weber||Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2)||D||39||3||5||8||10||132|
|Cody Murphy||Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan)||F||16||3||3||6||3||2|
FINAL 2017-18 PLAYOFFS
|Reilly Smith||Vegas Golden Knights||F||20||5||17||22||5||10|
|Sean Kuraly||Boston Bruins||F||12||2||2||4||5||2|
|Jack Roslovic||Winnipeg Jets||F||10||0||3||3||4||2|
|Blake Coleman||New Jersey Devils||F||5||2||0||2||1||4|
|Andy Greene||New Jersey Devils||D||5||0||2||2||-4||6|
|Alec Martinez||Los Angeles Kings||D||4||0||0||0||-2||0|
|Andy Miele||Vaxjo (SweHL)||F||13||1||8||9||8||24|
|Matt Tomassoni||Bolzano (AUS)||F||18||1||8||9||3||2|
|Cody Murphy||Bjorkloven (Allsvenskan)||F||5||2||2||4||0||0|
|Ryan Jones||Cologne (DEL)||F||6||1||1||2||-3||2|
|Marc Hagel||Lorenskog (Eliteserien)||F||4||1||0||1||-3||18|
|Will Weber||Crimmitschau ETC (DEL-2)||D||9||0||1||1||3||4|
(Defenseman Vincent LoVerde, photo by Cathy Lachmann)
Between the Stanley Cup playoffs, minor league championships, the NHL draft and its resulting transactions, trades and Wednesday’s free agent madness, numerous Miami alumni have spent the past couple of months winning trophies and moving to different cities.
If all of the activity is giving you a headache, here is the Miami-centric version of recent events involving former RedHawks.
LOVERDE WINS CALDER – Defenseman Vincent LoVerde, the captain of AHL Manchester, led the Monarchs to a Calder Cup championship in June.
The fourth-year pro who graduated in 2011 tied a career high in the regular season with nine goals, and he went 2-8-10 in 19 playoff games. LoVerde, 26, has already played in 275 professional games, racking up 25 goals and 69 assists for 94 points in the Kings organization.
STEFFES A KELLY CUP WINNER – What a season it was for Gary Steffes. The 2010 Miami graduate scored 61 goals between the regular season and playoffs and capped his year off by winning the Kelly Cup with Allen of the ECHL.
Steffes netted four goals in nine games in a call-up to AHL Milwaukee, potted a league-leading 44 regular season goals for Allen – more than twice his previous career high – and tallied 13 more in 25 postseason contests, the second-highest total in the league.
In 317 pro games, Steffes has 128 goals and 116 assists for 244 points.
BOYLE REACHES NHL CONFERENCE FINAL – Defenseman Dan Boyle advanced to the Stanley Cup conference final as a member of the New York Rangers, playing 19 postseason games and recording three goals and seven assists.
Boyle, the only RedHawks alum to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs, also became the first former Miamian to play in 1,000 regular season games in 2014-15. In addition to leading all ex-RedHawks in career regular season games played (1,019), he is tops in assists (428) and points (581), as well as career playoffs games played (126), goals (17), assists (63) and points (80).
PRO SIGNINGS, PLAYERS ON THE MOVE – Former Miamians were involved in a number of transactions between draft weekend and the first day of free agent signings on Wednesday.
Here are the highlights:
– Forward Reilly Smith was dealt from Boston along with F Marc Savard to Florida for F Jimmy Hayes. Hayes and Smith played against each other in the 2010 Frozen Four.
Smith has 36 goals and 64 assists for 100 points in 203 NHL games with the Bruins.
– F Blake Coleman signed a two-year deal with New Jersey on Wednesday. Coleman was drafted by the Devils but did not join a New Jersey affiliate in the spring after Miami was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
– F Andy Miele was re-signed by Detroit for one year. He finished second in the AHL in points last season with 70.
– D Chris Wideman was re-signed by Ottawa for one year. Wideman led all AHL defensemen in assists (42) and points (61) and was tied for the league lead in goals (19).
– F Carter Camper, who played in the Boston, Columbus and Ottawa systems, was signed to a one-year deal by Washington. Camper finished with a pro-high 52 points with Binghamton in 2014-15.
– F Marc Hagel was inked to a two-year deal by Minnesota. Hagel is coming off his second full pro season, and he went 12-21-33 with AHL Iowa.
– F Curtis McKenzie signed a two-year deal to remain with Dallas. McKenzie split time between AHL Texas and the Stars. He went 6-15-21 in 31 games in the AHL, and he was 4-1-5 in the NHL.
– F Austin Czarnik signed with the Bruins right after Miami’s season ended, coincidentally ending up in Providence, where the RedHawks played their final game of 2014-15. Czarnik played three games with the P-Bruins, notching two assists.
– Though he’s not an alumni yet (thank God), F Sean Kuraly had his rights traded from San Jose to Boston last week. Kuraly will be a senior at Miami this fall and could rejoin Czarnik in 2016.
Twenty-four former RedHawks either logged games in the AHL, the NHL or both last season. Here are the final 2014-15 regular season and postseason stats for all former Miamians currently playing pro hockey around the world:
F Reilly Smith, BOS, 81 GP, 13-27—40
F Tommy Wingels, SJ, 75 GP, 15-21—36
D Alec Martinez, LA, 56 GP, 6-16—22
D Andy Greene, NJ, 82 GP, 3-19—22
D Dan Boyle, NYR, 65 GP, 9-11—21
F Curtis McKenzie, DAL, 36 GP, 4-1—5
D Cameron Schilling, WSH, 4 GP, 0-0—0
G Jeff Zatkoff, PIT, 1 GP, 0-1, 1.62 GAA, .941 Sv%
F Andy Miele, GRP, 71 GP, 26-44—70
D Chris Wideman, BNG, 75 GP, 19-42—61
F Carter Camper, BNG, 75 GP, 15-37—52
F Pat Cannone, CHI, 64 GP, 14-33—47
F Marc Hagel, IOW, 67 GP, 12-21–33
F Curtis McKenzie, TEX, 31 GP, 6-15—21
D Vincent LoVerde, MNC, 63 GP, 9-11–20
D Cameron Schilling, HER, 63 GP, 3-15—18
F Trent Vogelhuber, SPR, 64 GP, 8-8–16
F Tyler Biggs, TOR, 47 GP, 2-3–5
D Steve Spinell, HFD, 52 GP, 1-4–5
F Gary Steffes, MLW, 9 GP, 4-0–4
F Justin Mercier, 16 GP, 2-2–4
F Alden Hirschfeld, GRP, 12 GP, 1-1–2
F Austin Czarnik, PRO, 3 GP, 0-2–2
F Ryan Jones, UTC, 5 GP, 0-1–1
D Will Weber, SPR, 30 GP, 0-1–1
F Alex Wideman, BNG, 4 GP, 0-0–0
G Jeff Zatkoff, WBS, 37 GP, 18-18, 2.45 GAA, .910 Sv%
F Gary Steffes, ALL, 63 GP, 44-29–73
F Justin Mercier, TOL, 46 GP, 22-21–43
F Alden Hirschfeld, TOL, 59 GP, 11-33–44
F Tyler Biggs, ORL, 8 GP, 4-2–6
D Steve Spinell, GRE, 6 GP, 1-1–2
F Bryon Paulazzo, STK, 22 GP, 2-2–4
G Connor Knapp, REA, 41 GP, 24-15, 2.58 GAA, .915 Sv%
G Cody Reichard, STK, 31 GP, 8-20, 4.31 GAA, .872 Sv%
F Devin Mantha, MIS, 39 GP, 11-17—28
F Bryon Paulazzo, MIS, 35 GP, 6-16—22
F Max Cook, COL, 36 GP, 3-9—12
F Dustin Whitecotton, Deggendorf, Oberliga (Germany), 38 GP, 14-33—47
F Evan Cheverie, Belfast, EIHL (Britain), 47 GP, 12-32—44
F/D Matt Tomassoni, Kassel, DEL-2 (Austria), 43 GP, 9-27—36
F Ryan Jones, Cologne, DEL (Austria), 30 GP, 12-5–17
D Dan Boyle, NYR, 19 GP, 3-7–10
F Andy Miele, GRP, 16 GP, 3-11–14
D Vincent LoVerde, MNC, 19 GP, 2-8–10
D Cameron Schilling, HER, 10 GP, 3-5–8
F Pat Cannone, CHI, 5 GP, 0-6–6
F Curtis McKenzie, TEX, 3 GP, 1-1–2
D Steve Spinell, HFD, 3 GP, 1-0–1
F Alden Hirschfeld, GRP, 6 GP, 1-0–1
G Jeff Zatkoff, WBS, 1 GP, 0-0, 1.03 GAA, .958 Sv%
F Gary Steffes, ALL, 25 GP, 13-5–18
F Justin Mercier, TOL, 20 GP, 8-4–12
F Alden Hirschfeld, TOL, 7 GP, 1-0–1
G Connor Knapp, REA, 7 GP, 3-4, 2.44 GAA, .919 Sv%
F Bryon Paulazzo, MIS, 5 GP, 4-1–5
F Devin Mantha, MIS, 5 GP, 1-1–2
F Mike Kompon, Belfast, EIHL (Britain), 4 GP, 1-3–4
F Dustin Whitecotton, Deggendorf, Oberliga (Germany), 4 GP, 1-2–3
F/D Matt Tomassoni, Kassel, DEL-2 (Austria), 5 GP, 0-1–1
Here’s a well-crafted production by the Dallas Stars after yesterday’s morning skate in which former Miami forward Reilly Smith participated for the first time as a professional hockey player. Good luck to Reilly and the Stars down the stretch.
Click HERE as the video won’t automatically embed.
We all knew it was a possibility and it has indeed happened: Reilly Smith has signed a 3 year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Some, if not most saw the writing on the wall after Miami’s early exit from the NCAA tournament with a 4-3 OT loss to UMass-Lowell on Friday night- a game that Smith would most likely wish be kept off of his impressive Miami resume. Some say his mind was made up after the CCHA consolation game last weekend that saw the RedHawks defeat the Bowling Green Falcons at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Nevertheless, the junior captain finished his Miami career with 66 goals and 56 assists for 122 points and is one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. He will join Dallas as the team embarks on a four game roadtrip beginning Monday night in Calgary.
Best of luck to Reilly. He sure was fun to watch during his three years in Oxford.
More to come.
Your Miami RedHawks take the ice tonight in search of their first-ever win against Michigan State outside of the regular season. The defending Mason Cup Champions have never beaten Michigan State in the CCHA playoffs (they’ve never met in the NCAA tournament). Miami is 0-9 against MSU, but Michigan State has never visited Oxford in these rounds either, so tonight’s contest looks to be a jumping off point for the RedHawks in the best-of-three series. State has played Miami in the quarterfinal round in 1985 and 2000, having swept both series in East Lansing.
Earlier this season, the ‘Hawks headed to East Lansing to face the Spartans and came out with 2 victories. The first came on a Jimmy Mullin overtime goal to lift the RedHawks to a 2-1 victory on January 6th. On the next night, Connor Knapp got his unbelievable 2012 kicked off, notching his first of 4 shutouts of the calendar year. On that weekend, Bryon Paulazzo, Cameron Schilling, Chris Wideman, Blake Coleman and Alden Hirschfeld all tallied at least 2 points, Miami had 6 different goal scorers in the 2-game sweep, and in total, 12 RedHawks made the scoring sheets.
Oxford is again the host of a second-round CCHA playoff series, as Miami is the only CCHA school that can claim that honor. After a rough trip to face Michigan, the Hawks have swept Alabama-Huntsville, Notre Dame and Ohio State to jump from 9th in the CCHA standings up to their 4th place finish. Since the CCHA changed to the current playoff format, Miami is 4-2 in this round of the playoffs, having faced 6 different teams in that span. Michigan State makes the 7 team in 7 years to play in Oxford in the playoffs, where Miami is 9-5 in those 6 series.
Leading the RedHawks as he has done all season is Junior Reilly Smith, who looks to continue his current scoring streaks of 4 games with a goal and 6 games with at least one point. Smith is coming off of a career-high 4 point game at Ohio State on 2/25/12, leads the CCHA and is second in the country in goals scored with 26, has just been named the CCHA All-Conference First Team, and was named Inside College Hockey (INCH) CCHA Player of the Year. From INCH’s CCHA beat writer James Dowd:
Last year’s [INCH] breakthrough player of the year becomes INCH’s CCHA Player of the Year. Miami’s Reilly Smith carried a young team on his back, notching 26 goals on the season—second nationally behind only fellow Dallas draft pick Austin Smith of Colgate. After a strong 2010-11 season, one had to wonder whether Smith’s success hinged primarily on the playmaking wizardry of 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele, but Smith proved this year he’s a pure goal scorer even without the likes of Miele and Carter Camper surrounding him. The Redhawks looked lost at times this year, but Smith kept putting the puck in the net, buying time for his young teammates to mature.
In addition to the above accolades, for some pre-game reading enjoyment, take a gander at John Lachmann’s article at wcpo.com which chronicles Smith’s outstanding Miami career to date.
We would expect to see Connor Knapp in net tonight, as he is coming off of one of the best statistical seasons by any Miami goaltender in history. Knapp has had 4 shutouts in 2012, and has posted some unbelievable stats this season. His .939 save percentage is second best in the nation (Chris Noonan of Niagara is just ahead at .941), and his 1.53 goals against average is tops in the NCAA (Troy Grosenick from Union is 2nd at 1.64 GAA). The Buffalo Sabres draft pick has also finished first in CCHA conference play with a gnarly .945 save percentage and a 1.41 GAA and he even tallied an assist on the season. He, Cody Reichard and David Burleigh (’03) are all tied at 12 career goose-eggs, and will be looking to break the Miami shutout record this weekend. Despite having those impeccable numbers, Knapp was only voted to Honorable Mention in the CCHA awards, finishing behind First-Teamer Taylor Nelson of Ferris State and
the baby goalie Shawn Hunwick of Michigan, who made the Second Team.
As for the Spartans, they will almost certainly deploy Junior Torey Krug when Reilly Smith is on the ice. Krug was also named to the All-CCHA First Team, and is Michigan State’s best defenseman. Not only is he staunch on the defensive side of the ice, but he also tied for the CCHA lead in scoring with an impressive 11 goals and 18 assists, finishing 1 point ahead of Smith for the CCHA in-conference scoring lead.
In net could be either of Will Yanakeff or Drew Palmisano. Yanakeff has posted a record of 13-7-1 this year, allowing 2.32 goals per game and has a save percentage of .927. He has played in 3 of the last 4 Spartans games, having gone 2-1. Palmisano, a senior is 6-6-3 on the season, with 2.59 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Head Coach Tom Anastos will try to lead the Spartans to the CCHA Championship weekend in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for the first time since 2007, Michigan State’s latest National Championship season. Looking back, no current Spartan has been on the winning side of a CCHA playoff series or game.
A few final notes for the weekend:
- Michigan State is just 6-7-0 on the road this season, but has a commanding 29-12-3 record in Oxford all-time against Miami.
- The Spartans hold a 6-2-1 record on the season against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game.
- Miami has outscored their opponents 19-3 in the last 6 games, all wins.
- 2 victories would push Miami’s current seniors to the 4th most all time. They currently stand at 96 wins in their 4 years, and could make it a magical 100 with a second-consecutive Mason Cup Championship next weekend.
- Miami sits at 9th in the current Pairwise, and MSU is in a tie for 12th. This is a comparison we don’t want to lose, so wins this weekend are crucial.
The puck drops on this critical series at 7:35pm tonight, 7:05pm Saturday, and 7:05pm on Sunday night, if necessary. The weekend’s games are not televised, but can be viewed on http://www.muredhawks.com using the All-Access subscription service. Just $9.95/month gets you the video feed for all three games, and can be cancelled at any time!
This week went entirely too slow, and it’s going to be a fun weekend in Oxford.
As Miami junior forward Reilly Smith continues to light the lamp with regularity (26-12-38), the whispers of a Hobey Baker campaign are becoming louder. Today, Smith was added to Inside College Hockey’s “Hobey Tracker,” a recurring column about the leaders for college hockey’s most prestigious individual award. Of course Smith has big shoes to fill considering last year’s winner was Miami’s own Andy Miele. Yet, it’s great to see the national recognition pour in for a guy that was “only able to score 28 goals last year because he played on a line with Miele.” Yeah, right.
Smith has been a huge part of Miami’s success this season and here’s hoping he remains hot throughout the post-season.
Smith potted seven goals and three assists in Miami’s eight January contests including four game-winning markers as the RedHawks have surged into a 2nd place tie in the CCHA standings and are firmly in contention for an NCAA tournament bid as the season’s penultimate month begins. And, as a credit to Smith’s all-around excellence, he also blocked five shots as he has ramped up his defensive prowess. Miami is now tied for 7th in the nation in team defense after a shaky start.
Overall, Smith has 19 goals and eight assists for 27 points, good for third in the CCHA. His seven game-winning markers on the season are tied for first nationally while Smith’s 0.73 goals-per game average is fourth-best in the country. (source: CCHA.com)
For the second time in three weeks, a Miami RedHawk senior has been named the Inside College Hockey National Player of the Week.
Senior co-captain Reilly Smith earned this week’s honor as he poured in four goals including a hat trick in Miami’s sweep of Western Michigan. Smith is now third in the country in goals (18) a year after tallying 28 for the defending Mason Cup Champions.
Two weeks ago, Connor Knapp was lauded for his efforts in allowing one goal in a road sweep of Michigan State.
Reilly Smith Connor Knapp Austin Czarnik
Miami seniors Reilly Smith and Connor Knapp were named the CCHA Offensive Player and Goaltender of the Week respectively, while freshman Austin Czarnik was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week for their collective efforts in Miami’s sweep of then #8 Western Michigan.
Smith scored Miami’s first four goals of the weekend including a hat trick in Friday’s 3-1 victory while Knapp stopped 48 of 49 shots on the weekend notching his second shutout of the season. And, not to be overlooked, Miami freshman phenom Austin Czarnik tallied four assists on the weekend including helpers on all three Smith goals on Friday night.
Smith and Czarnik have now won a CCHA weekly award three times each this season and Knapp earned his second — both over the past three weeks.
MURedHawks.com has more on each player’s success.
When you have a fan, and writer, who is so passionate about hockey, it’s a treat to have an opportunity to get that person to contribute something to the blog. In that light, Redskin Warriors is happy to present our first guest submission from HappyGirl2525. She’s an avid Dallas Stars and Miami fan and you can follow her on Twitter at @happygirl2525. So, thanks to her for contributing our first guest piece to the blog and we hope she’ll do so again. Enjoy!
Curtis McKenzie Reilly Smith
Walking into Goggin Ice Center, you can’t help but notice the murals and jerseys of former RedHawk greats who played in the NHL, from Brian Savage, Dan Boyle, Kevyn Adams to Ryan Jones. With each new season, it’s fun to watch the progress of the players and wonder who might be the next Miamian to raise the Stanley Cup over his head.
Two possible contenders, Miami’s Reilly Smith and Curtis McKenzie, were drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2009. This represented a significant change in the Stars philosophy, from relying heavily on the free agency and trades, to building more from within and increasing the number of quality prospects in the Stars system. It also mirrored the career path of Stars General Manager, Joe Nieuwendyk, who was a former college standout and Hobey Baker finalist for Cornell University.
With the 69th pick in the third round, the Stars selected Reilly Smith. Three rounds later, with the 159th pick, the Stars selected Curtis McKenzie. To provide some perspective, in 2007, with the 129th pick in the 5th round, the Stars selected Jamie Benn, who is currently second on the team in scoring and was just named to his first NHL All Star team. The key to an organization’s success is being able to identify those late-round diamonds in the rough, especially in the salary cap era.
Some other notable Stars draft picks currently playing in the NCAA are Austin Smith (Colgate), Alex Chiasson (Boston University – boo) Scott Winkler (Colorado College) and Alex Guptill (Michigan).
Being an NHL draft pick provides the players with a bit more opportunities than non-drafted players. Draft picks can attend, at their own expense, the NHL club’s Development Camp in the summer. Here they have a chance to skate with other prospects, most notably from the Junior ranks and minor league teams, and to work with NHL coaches and trainers on different skills, drills and conditioning. Another important aspect is that it gives the players a small taste of what their life could be in the pros, which can be very motivating.
For me personally, as both a Miami RedHawks and Dallas Stars fan, it’s been amazing to watch the development and progress of Smith and McKenzie and to see how they fit into the Stars system. Smith has attended two Stars Development camps (2010 and 2011) in Texas, and McKenzie attended one in 2010.
Watching Smith this year compared to last year, you can see how this experience has helped improve his game. Besides being bigger this year, Smith is becoming a more complete player. While he’s always had the soft hands and good skating ability, he’s been more aggressive with his stick when he doesn’t have the puck and is playing more of a two-way game. Those are two elements that goal scorers, like Smith, can struggle with as they make the jump from Juniors or NCAA to the professional ranks.
Smith has also overcome losing a great set-up man in Andy Miele. While Smith struggled at the beginning of the year, as the whole team struggled, he’s really started to generate some great chemistry with Austin Czarnik. Scoring four goals in this weekend’s past two games, Smith is continuing to lead this RedHawk team back into contention.
Another challenge for Smith is overcoming the knock on him his freshman year that he is small. While he’s never had a problem playing a physical game or fighting for ice in front of the net, you do have to question if a college player will have the stamina to play an 82-game NHL schedule. At 6’1”, 183, Smith is one inch taller and six pounds heavier than Dallas Stars center, Mike Ribeiro. Watching him play tonight, I no longer have any doubts if he can withstand the rigors of a full NHL schedule. In some ways I see some similarities between Smith and Stars GM Nieuwendyk, skinny college kids with soft hands, a knack for putting the puck in the net and an amazing wrist shot.
If Smith continues to develop at this pace, I think the only question remaining is if the Stars will let him finish his senior year in Oxford, or whether they bring him down to Austin, TX, to play for Dallas’ American Hockey League team, the Texas Stars. But I do think someday, we will see Smith in an NHL sweater. I just hope it’s a Dallas Stars sweater.
I’m not sure if Curtis McKenzie will ever wear a Dallas Stars sweater. I love McKenzie’s attitude, work ethic and intensity. At 6’2”, 207 pounds, he definitely has the size to play in the NHL, but he doesn’t have the offensive upside that Smith brings. McKenzie has definitely matured as a player and isn’t taking as many unnecessary penalties as he’s done previously. Also, McKenzie isn’t afraid to use his size and crash the net. I’ve just not seen that ability to change a game that Smith possesses. To make it to the NHL and more importantly to stay in the NHL, you’ve got to be able to raise your play to that next level and change the outcome of games. For example, Jamie Benn is gritty and intense but he can also dominate teams and make their defensemen look like peewees.
What I think what the Stars scouts saw in McKenzie and what I think could make him a member of the Texas Stars, besides his size, are his energy and passion for the game. McKenzie stands up for his teammates and will do whatever the team needs. Watching McKenzie, I think of him as a poor man’s Adam Burish. He lacks some of Burish’s scoring ability, but his personality reminds me of Burish, who was a standout for the University of Wisconsin Badgers hockey team.
While their paths may take them on separate journeys for the same franchise, I think both will have a roster spot for them in Texas, either in Austin or in Dallas, when their days at Miami are complete. Until then, I’m going to relish every chance I get to see Smith and McKenzie in the red and white.