Devante Smith-Pelly looking to put past behind him in tryout with Flames



Last season didn’t go the way Devante Smith-Pelly wanted — let alone expected.

The 27-year-old was coming off one of the best seasons of his career with the Capitals. In 2017-18, he was a strong presence on the bottom-6, registering seven goals, 16 points and 151 hits; he also spent some time in the top-6 and on the first line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Smith-Pelly was also utilized on special teams, averaging 1:58 minutes on the penalty kill.

He stood out most, though, in the Stanley Cup playoffs; his seven goals in 24 games — including his famous game-tying goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights that ultimately helped Washington clinch the Cup title — made him a fan favorite in D.C.

That success didn’t translate to 2018-19. He didn’t impress in training camp or the preseason, with coach Todd Reirden saying he wasn’t ‘at the level that he was at last year.’ He still made the opening-night roster, but after posting just four goals, eight points and a plus/minus rating of minus-6 through 54 games, Washington waived the 6-0, 223-pound winger. To the surprise of some, he cleared and was subsequently assigned to their AHL-affiliate Hershey Bears.

There, he had six goals and 14 points in 20 games, including a hat trick, earning a call-up to join the team for the final three games of the team’s first-round series against Carolina. He went scoreless, and the Capitals were eliminated in seven games.

“The summer was different for a lot of guys. I mean, very short,” Smith-Pelly said at the Caps’ exit day in April. “Guys are hurt going into the summer, so obviously you don’t have the same routine as you’ve had in years’ past to get ready. I guess that just affected me more than some other guys. You try to get your footing, and stuff happens.

“With the Hershey thing, I mean, I don’t know. It happened, and I went down there and worked on my game and felt good about my game … it was a necessary step to try and get my game back. I know (the NHL) is the level I should be playing at and that was just something I had to do to get my game back to this level.”

NHL FREE AGENCY 2019: Professional tryout tracker

Heading into 2019-20, Smith-Pelly will get a second chance to prove himself. The Scarborough, Ontario native received a professional tryout from the Flames and will look to crack the opening-night roster and get his career back on track.

Given the change of scenery, it appears that he can pull it off — and he believes he can, too.

“They showed interest from the start. … I looked at the lineup and kind of where I saw myself fitting in and thought this would be a good spot for a chance to play,” Smith-Pelly told TSN. “It’s a fresh start. Obviously things in D.C. were great and last season was tough. We can talk about what happened the summer before and all that stuff but I kind of put it past me and worked really hard this summer and just try to look forward and try to focus on trying to make this team.”

While he had a contract last year, there’s no safety net this time around; after his Stanley Cup run, Smith-Pelly earned a one-year, one-way extension and had expectations to simply return to the roster. He not only is heading into camp without a contract, but also has to earn it and get past heavy competition to do so; Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo and Alexandre Grenier were also invited to camp on a tryout basis and will be giving their all to keep their careers alive. Not to mention, prospects like Dillon Dube are also looking to make the full-time jump to the main roster.

Still, Smith-Pelly’s skill set speaks for him; he’s a strong skater and versatile forward who can play multiple roles and be a strong competitor at both ends of the ice. Not to mention, Smith-Pelly’s also a big player who can throw his weight around and doesn’t usually shy away from being a physical presence. This, of course, will bode well in a rough-and-tumble Pacific Division.

“(Physicality is) something the GM and coaches when I talked to them on the phone said I needed and I think I can bring that,” Smith-Pelly said in a video interview with TSN. “. … It’s not just a PTO just for a battle, it’s a good shot of making the team. That’s why I decided to come here.”

He also emphasized time and time again last year that a short summer made things more difficult, as he had just about three months to fully recover, train and get back on track after having skated 99 games the previous year. Having started his offseason in late April, the winger should be able to come into camp refreshed while benefiting from more training and conditioning.

In the end, he’s the one who will have to prove his worth heading into training camp, where there aren’t that many spots up for grabs. Still, he sees himself slotting in on the bottom-6 and is ready to prove it.





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