Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Ben Smith, F
2015-16 cap hit/contract: $1.5 million, pending UFA
2014-15 year in review: Ben Smith was a trade deadline acquisition, arriving in San Jose via Chicago (along with a late round 2017 draft pick) for Andrew Desjardins on March 2. The highlight of his brief tenure in teal came in his very first game, when he posted a goal and an assist in 17:10 of ice time against Montreal in a home 4-0 win.
Smith’s production – and ice time – dropped after that memorable debut, as he finished with two goals and three assists in 19 games, skating mostly as the fourth line center. He finished the season with 14 points (7g, 7a) in 80 games between the Sharks and Blackhawks.
2015-16 outlook: Ben Smith may not have done a whole lot after he was acquired, but the drop off in talent from the players he was skating with in Chicago compared with those he was skating with in San Jose was dramatic.
The center spent most of his 19 games with the Sharks with Barclay Goodrow, who probably should have spent much more time in the AHL last season; John Scott, who was never going to be mistaken for a scoring threat; Mike Brown, who returned late in the year after a broken leg; and Daniil Tarasov, who has since signed in the KHL due to his limited NHL potential.
Coach Peter DeBoer has already said he wants his fourth line to play more of a skilled game, so Smith should have better linemates this season if he stays in that role. Scott has left for Arizona, Goodrow is a year older (and may be slated for the Barracuda), and Brown is healthy. Raffi Torres could be an option, depending on how he’s progressing from his devastating knee injury, as could Melker Karlsson, who had a strong rookie year.
The 27-year-old will also be counted on to penalty kill, after that unit finished 25th in the NHL last season. At the time of his trade to the Sharks he was leading Chicago in shorthanded ice time per game (2:25), but for some reason saw that number cut in half after his arrival in San Jose. Expect it to go back up under DeBoer.