What to See in Reilly Smith's Numbers

As I'm sure we all now know, The Rangers acquired Reilly Smith from the Penguins in return for a 2027 2nd round and 2025 5th round draft pick. Immediately after the free agency calmed down and it was believed that this was going to be the Rangers' primary move for the opening of the offseason, the conversation began of whether or not the roster, as it stands, has what it takes to compete with the best of them. Of course, my gut reaction was to assess the numbers of Smith to see how he has performed in previous seasons. After all, he did win a Stanley Cup in 2022 with the Vegas Golden Knights.

2023 Regular Season Stats via ww.project94hockey.com

At 32 years old, Smith had 40 points with the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing 76 games and averaging 16.1 minutes of ice time per game. The Right Winger had 10.47 Unblocked Shot Attempts per 60, which is a metric I happen to like when it comes to assessing offensive production as it, at least attempts to, compare how many unblocked shots a player can get at an equal amount of playing time. Players with numbers include Teuvo Teravainen, a player who many believed would be a fit for the Rangers, Will Cuylle, Marco Rossi, and others. His 55 hits are not going to put him in direct replacement of Barclay Goodrow, who had 170 hits in the regular season. He could replace him on the penalty kill, however, as he did average 0.75 shorthanded minutes per game for the Penguins. Smith wasn't in their top unit but did rotate in when necessary.

I'd be interested to know how many people consider "clutch" a measurable characteristic, because Smith has had 7 game winning goals in the last 2 regular seasons, plus credited with the 2022 Stanley Cup clinching goal, and 14 points overall (4G/10A) in the 2022-2023 postseason.

Out of his 196 unblocked shot attempts last season, 56 of them were high quality, which was 4th on the Penguins. With a even strength on-ice expected goals differential 0f -8.01, Smith was 2nd to last on the team. My immediate reaction was a little worried, but that number should be assessed by looking at the On-Ice xG For side of the equation, as 62.4 was 7th among the forwards on Pittsburgh. If Smith is able to slot into a line with New York that shuts down 2nd or 3rd lines, he could provide the offensive spark to a line that needs it.

On the other hand, Smith could slot in on the first line with Zibanejad and Kreider. Looking at the NHL Edge Stats, Smith is below the 50th percentile in top speed and 22+ mph bursts. He is, however, 97th percentile in distance skated per 60, which means he could provide a great two way game against top lines. His Takeaways per 60 was 1.76 in 2023 and had 36 total, which isn't exceptional but is actually just around Goodrow's numbers. His player comparisons show a similar story, with strong two way players that provide an offensive upside.

Much of the conversation will continue to be if the Rangers have enough fire power to make a run into June, and if not, what they need to do before the trade deadline to get them there. Smith is going to make them harder to play against without limiting the speed of top forwards. The even strength xG against is a reason to be cautious in putting him out against top matchups, but I'm sure Laviolette will find the right role for someone who skates as much as Smith with whatever minutes he gets. Given the trade price, they certainly added and leveled up on offensive depth. It is yet to be determined if the Rangers are going to be able to score more even strength goals than last season against top D pairs.