Ladislav Smid played 253 games before he turned 24 years old. From 2000-2009, 336 defensemen played an NHL game before they turned 24 years old. In that time period, Smid ranks in a tie for thirteenth in games played under the age of 24 behind Brent Burns, Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Ossi Vaananen, Vitaly Vishnevski, Andrej Meszaros, Nick Schultz, Dmitri Kalinin, and David Tanabe. He's tied with Alexander Edler and Rostislav Klesla. Taken as a whole, this group of comparables is impressive company for Smid to keep. While Smid has struggled at times, and what young defensemen rushed to the NHL to play for teams like the last four installments of the Oilers wouldn't, he's also shown flashes of play that signify he does belong in the conversation with the group above.
Comparing Smid's games played to other current Oiler defenders put's Smid's experience in perspective:
Tom Gilbert 307 GP - 27 years old
Kurtis Foster 303 GP - 28 years old
Ladislav Smid 298 GP - 24 years old
Should Smid stay healthy, his games played totals will near 600 at this point in his 28-year-old season. However, longevity on a terrible team and generating appearances on the ice isn't the only thing Smid has going for him - there's a real defender in there and we've seen flashes of that defender at times over the last two seasons.
None of our writers ranked Smid lower than fifth overall this summer, but Ben, Bruce and myself have all dropped him to the bottom of the top ten. Jonathan and Scott's high rankings keep him fifth overall, however. If I was re-ranking today, Smid would be much higher - my ranking for him was influenced by the supposed stagnation, even regression in his game early in the season. But the numbers disagree to an extent and I was heavily influenced by the "saw him bad' viewpoint that I rally against so fervently. His scoring chances at the quarter pole show him as the top Edmonton defender. Of course, he was playing on the second pairing with Tom Gilbert and theoretically the minutes should have been easier. But early in the season, he was sent to the third pairing and spent significant time with Foster and Jason Strudwick at his side, a recipe for disaster, especially for Smid as evidence piles up that he is at his best with a part who possesses deft puck-handling skill and he's at his replacement-level worst when paired with "character" or "rugged" defensemen. Dennis King at MC79hockey.com, has been counting scoring chances for the Oilers for two seasons and his data has revealed some interesting information about Smid, his game and his partners
Smid's 2009-10 even strength scoring chance WOWY with Lubomir Visnovsky:
2010-11 with Jeff Petry:
2010-11 with Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert:
|W 77 or 58||92||86||0.516|
|W/O 77 or 58||100||137||0.421|
The total chances data is still under 1000 chances, but there's a clear trend. Give Smid a partner capable of handling the puck and pushing it up the ice via skating ability or passing ability and Smid is a bonafide NHL defender. Pair him with Steve Staios, Foster, or Strudwick and the results are brutal.
With a partner like Petry, Smid's ceiling is significantly higher, possibly even worthy of his 9th overall draft slot. Consider Smid's numbers in comparison to another Czech defenseman, Rostislav Klesla. Like Smid, Klesla was fast-tracked to the NHL by poor management, though Klesla was an NHL regular at the age of nineteen, not twenty like Smid. Through their first five full NHL seasons (with Smid's 2010 numbers projected) their numbers are close enough to compare:
The Blue Jackets' goal differential over this measure period was -306 and the Oilers -230 (projected). Essentially, the Oilers have a less offensive version of Rostislav Klesla. It's possible that Smid's numbers would be better, much better if he wouldn't have been forced to play Steve Staios' hard around clearing passes for a season, or if he could have avoided Marc-Andre Bergeron for any period of time. Either way the Oilers have the makings of a shutdown defenseman in Smid.