Zack Smith probably has not heard so much talk about his play up to this point in his hockey career, as the 28-year- old has not scored this many goals in a season since playing in the AHL back during the 2008-2009 season. He has played so well that there are even talks of him potentially joining Team Canada at this year’s World Hockey Championships. While the experience of scoring over 20 goals in today’s NHL has been nearly surreal for him, the question remains on whether or not he can repeat that feat.
Smith and a One-Time Deal?
Putting into perspective the accomplishment of scoring more than 20 goals, Smith has only done it two other times in his career: once in Major Junior playing for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, and the other playing for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL. Granted, it is his first time playing regularly in a top-six role, and the chemistry he has with linemates Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone has made them the Ottawa Senators’ top forward combination.
If he is to play in a top six role again next season, a few things would have to happen. Smith was able to perform with more offensive responsibility due to the injuries to Clarke MacCarthur and Kyle Turris, as well as head coach Dave Cameron’s mistrust towards Mike Hoffman. With the possibility that Hoffman does not return next season, that will open up a spot for Smith to remain on the left wing. If Smith remains as a winger on one of the top two lines next season, it would improve his chances of meeting this season’s goal total.
However, there is evidence to suggest that hitting at least 20 goals again could be difficult for him. His shooting percentages sits at a 19.7% success rate, which sits first among players with at least 20 goals. His previous career high for shooting percentage during a full season was back as a sophomore in 2011-2012, when he scored 14 goals at a 10.5% rate. Putting that into consideration, 10-15 goals would be a more reasonable expectation for him moving forward.
Considering that he only accomplished scoring 20+ goals once in Major Junior and once in the minors, it would be difficult to justify Smith doing it twice in the strongest hockey league on the planet. However, Zack Smith is a strong competitor who works hard with every shift, and he will need to maintain it for any hope of reaching the 20-goal mark once again.