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Golden Knights roster review: Reilly Smith

The Review-Journal presents its “Roster Review” series, which will examine each Golden Knights player’s current production and future outlook in alphabetical order. Wednesday: Right wing Reilly Smith.

Background

Reilly Smith is the Golden Knights’ George Harrison.

He doesn’t get a lot of credit for the team’s success — Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore probably fall into the Paul McCartney and John Lennon camp — but he’s really important. And really good.

Every high-powered line needs a player willing to sacrifice and get his nose dirty on the forecheck. Smith does that.

Every successful team needs an offensive threat to lead by example and defend as hard as they attack. Smith does that.

It’s why the understated forward has been an alternate captain for three years running. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Performance

Smith’s season is looking like his “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It’s been outstanding.

The 29-year-old is second on the Knights in goals (27, surpassing his previous career high of 25) and third in points (54). He’s accomplished that despite spending as much time on the penalty kill as any of the team’s current forwards.

“Just scoring more empty-net goals,” Smith said Feb. 28 when explaining his success. His three empty-net goals lead the Knights and tie his career high. “I play with great linemates, and they give me a lot of opportunities. Just seems like the puck is going in a little more.”

While Smith wasn’t wrong — his shooting percentage of 16.0 is a career best — he also didn’t give himself enough credit for his consistency.

He hasn’t scored more than two points in a game this season. His stats haven’t been padded by a few gaudy offensive performances.

Instead, he’s just played hard and picked his spots. That’s why he can be trusted to play in all situations and even defend opposing top lines.

Smith’s impact as a penalty killer can’t be undersold, either. He’s been on the ice for the fourth-most short-handed high-danger scoring chances (35) in the NHL the past two seasons. He and Karlsson, his typical forward partner, excel at picking off wayward passes and using their speed to create an odd-man rush the other way.

“They do it as good as anyone in the league that I see,” former Knights coach Gerard Gallant said in October.

Future

Smith isn’t leaving to go solo anytime soon.

He’s signed for another two seasons after this current one with a $5 million annual cap hit. That’s excellent value for a player who performs as many duties as Smith, including being part of the Knights’ leadership group.

Time will tell whether he’ll have another hit like “Here Comes the Sun” in that span, too.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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