Nashville Predators right wing Craig Smith (15) during a NHL game.

Underrated

When the Boston Bruins signed Craig Smith to a three-year deal back on October 10, it appeared that many folks had dismissed this move.

After all, this occurred during an out-of-the-norm offseason where no big acquisitions were made at the beginning of free agency for this team. If you throw in the fact that the B’s lost both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug as well, then the possibility for something positive to get buried was understandable.

It was truly tough to get a sense of just how Smith would fit into this lineup, especially since a shortened training camp with no exhibition games hindered the integration process. The 31-year-old winger had spent his entire career with the Nashville Predators, which spanned nine seasons. Smith had posted 162 goals and 330 points in 661 career games with Nashville. He had also scored 20 or more goals in five of the past seven seasons.

On paper, acquiring a consistent goal scorer like Smith for about $3 million per year is a great signing. He also has the ability to play anywhere in the lineup. That has been on full display this season, as B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy has inserted Smith all across the top-three lines in the early going.

Most notably, the Madison, WI native made it public this offseason that he had spoken with Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron before making his final decision in free agency. Smith was quoted as saying the following: “The way he [Bergeron] spoke about the team and the love he has for his teammates, and the respect I have for him, it definitely meant a lot.”

Being a part of a great organization, winning culture, and close-knit locker room were important factors for Smith before deciding to come to Boston. Of course, the on-ice factors are important and the chance to contribute offensively should come first. Smith has often-times overlooked scoring ability. From the looks of things, he seems to be fitting in quite nicely.

In his first 11 games with the Bruins, Smith has recorded three goals and two assists. He is also getting some looks on the second power-play unit. His average time on ice has remained consistent at around 15 minutes per game and he has no problem going to the dirty areas around the net for a scoring chance.

Smith relishes at the chance to shoot the puck. He currently ranks third on the team with 32 rips of the puck. Playing wing in the National Hockey League requires a certain skillset. If all else fails, then you have to be able to shoot the puck. Smith is one of the better skaters with that particular attribute.

Overall, Smith looks like he belongs with the Bruins. It turns out that this has been one of the more underrated signings that the organization has made within the last few years. It would benefit the Bruins in the long run if they kept Smith on the second line—even when Ondrej Kase does return from injury.

Only time will tell when it comes to this player, but in the meantime? So far, so good.