In July, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired defenseman Ty Smith from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for fellow defender John Marino. It is indeed a rarity in which two divisional opponents make a trade of this magnitude, but this trade truly was the best case scenario for all parties involved.
Ty Smith quarterbacked the Penguins' first powerplay unit during today's preseason matchup versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Head coach Mike Sullivan is giving the young defender plenty of chances to earn a spot going into 2022-23.
"He's a young, offensively gifted defenseman. He's mobile, can help us get out of our end, and a very good puck mover."
As a rookie, Smith finished 7th in Calder Trophy voting after posting 23 points in 48 games in 2021. Drafted 17th overall in 2018 by New Jersey, Smith posted crazy numbers in the WHL, scoring 201 points in 172 games over his last three seasons for the Spokane Chiefs. In February of 2020, he broke a franchise record by scoring eight points (3g, 5a) in one game.
Unfortunately, Smith had a really, really rough sophomore season, making a sophomore slump look like a walk in the park. In 66 games, Smith totaled just 20 points and sported a -26 rating. He was caved in defensively despite relatively light deployment, and at times he just did not belong in the NHL quite yet. Smith's lowest point came when Senators forward Drake Batherson folded him like a lawn chair for an overtime winner:
Perhaps, going from a bottom-feeding team in New Jersey to a room like the Pittsburgh Penguins' is exactly what Smith needed to elevate his career. The offensive gifts have been on display for a while, but the rigid, stoic composition of the Pens' group ought to have a profound effect on Smith's confidence and overall success.