Editor’s note: We’re fortunate to have another contribution today from Justin Bourne – outstanding hockey writer (USA Today, The Hockey News), son of Bob, future son-in-law of Clark Gillies. In this piece, Justin writes about his former teammate and current Islanders prospect Trevor Smith. Next week, we’ll have our first rankings of Bridgeport prospects. With the Islanders planning a day off in Boston today, no better time for Justin’s fine work.
Even though he didn’t crack the lineup at the start of the year, he’ll be one of the first guys called upon to fill in the second someone is hurt. And if we’ve learned one thing about the Islanders, it’s that people tend to get hurt (582 man games lost to injury in 08-09).
Smitty could shoot a puck into your car’s gas tank from across the street.
One of the hardest things in hockey is shooting the puck when it’s not in your “wheelhouse” – a baseball expression that represents the tiny little perfect shooting zone most of us have. Apparently, Trevor was given a wheelhouse the size of the Lighthouse Project.
Anywhere he shoots the damn thing, it’s in – off his back foot to the far post, low. Goal. In front of his body, off the crossbar. Goal. From his backhand while skating. Count it. A one-timer from behind him. Red light. It just seems to come off “right” every time. And that’s no small feat.
He scored 20 times in the American League as a rookie, and that was during a year in which the Isles sent him to the ECHL for two months. How’s that for goal-scoring ability? Combined with his 11 in Utah, that’s a 31 goal rookie campaign.
He’s one of those players that doesn’t need 16 chances a game to score *cough*me*cough*. It only takes one, just like another product of Vancouver’s lower mainland, Burnaby Joe.
I spent the majority of the 07-08 season on Smitty’s team, some with Bridgeport, and some with Utah. We were all mind-boggled when they sent him to us in Utah early in the year, and he immediately proved why it was, in fact, a mind-boggling decision.
His 25 points in 22 games don’t speak enough to how dominant he was. He made every single player who was lucky enough to play on his line better.
Knowing you’re good enough to play at a level is a comforting feeling, but knowing you’re better than the level must be fun. Watching him in the ECHL was like watching a dad play basketball with his eight year old son, holding the ball just out of the kids jumping range, half to tease him, half to entertain himself. One play in particular sticks out in my mind.
I only had one professional hat-trick, and I can thank Trev for the third goal. He was on a one on two, but had a teammate trailing him – the not exactly offensively proficient Kazuma Takahashi – that he could have slowed down and dropped the puck to, which would have made it a two on two.
I was way behind the rush, working to get up the ice after a defensive play, but was beating some lolly-gagging forwards back, trying to make it a three on two if Trev did decide to delay. He did.
Instead of passing it to Kaz, he “passed on” him. Smith physically looked all the way back up the ice and saw me coming, then delayed. He let Kaz go through and take out one of the d-men, sucked the other one over to himself, and sauced the puck so it neatly stopped just inside the blueline.
He saw that I was going to beat the other players up the ice, and made the ridiculous play that left me with a clear shot at the tender.
How’s that for vision?
Last season, Trevor scored another 31 goals, again divided between two leagues. Only last year, it was 30 in the AHL, and one in the NHL.
Some players tend to sit on their talent and just hope it pans out. Instead of falling into that category, Trevor has worked hard, and in turn, has worked himself to a legitimate contender for a spot on the Islanders – a team that could use the type of guy who can score on any given shot.
The three-year entry-level contracts given to kids from junior and college often turn into three-year obligations for organizations, but in this case, they’ve developed someone with the potential to give them some return on their investment.
Not only is it exciting to watch a good dude like Smitty succeed, but it must be exciting for the Islanders to be so right about a guy. Because if Trevor keeps improving at the rate he has, it might not be too long before he’s toying with some of the d-men in the big league, too.
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