NHL Prospect Profile: Devante Smith-Pelly
Each day in the lead-up to the NHL Draft on June 25-26 in Los Angeles, Yahoo! Sports will feature one of the Central Scouting Bureau’s Top 100 North American prospects from the Canadian Hockey League.
Our first prospect is Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors forward Devante Smith-Pelly, who is the 76th-rated North American skater. Smith-Pelly, a Toronto native, finished his second season with the Majors tied for team scoring with 29 goals and 33 assists for 62 points in 60 games. He blossomed this season, more than doubling his point production from his rookie season with the Majors (13 goals, 12 assists in 57 games).
He was the Majors’ first pick in the 2008 OHL priority selection (eighth-overall) coming out of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, who were OHL Cup champions in 2008. Included on Smith-Pelly’s Jr. Canadiens squad were fellow NHL draft eligible players John McFarland (Sudbury Wolves) and Tyler Toffoli (Ottawa 67’s).
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-winger isn’t particularly known for his offensive touch, though he was able to average a point-per-game despite playing a tight defensive game under head coach Dave Cameron. The Majors finished with the second highest point total (90) in the Eastern Conference with a 42-20-4-2 regular-season record. The Majors won two playoff rounds, sweeping the Peterborough Petes in the first round and beating the 67’s in the second round in seven games. Smith-Pelly was also tied with Islanders prospect Casey Cizikas as the Majors’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 14 postseason points (8 goals, 6 assists in 16 games).
1. How would you say your season progressed, from start to finish?
“I came in trying to build on a decent rookie year. I got an opportunity as a 16-year-old, which is very important. I tried to come back bigger and stronger. I did a lot off-ice work in the summer. I just tried to play my game and not do too much. I got some more opportunities, being a year older. I tried to capitalize on my chances and ended up having a pretty good year.”
2. Who would you describe as your biggest hockey influence?
“My parents [father Wayne Pelly and mother Jacqueline Smith]. They have preached work ethic, preached not taking anything for granted. That lesson was important, coming in as a pretty high OHL draft pick, having to work my way off the fourth line and into a greater role in the lineup. Some kids would maybe take where they were picked for granted and kind of feel they were entitled to a certain amount of ice time.
“They preached just going in and working my hardest and that’s been the biggest influence in my career so far.”
3. In your mind, what would scouts say you have to work on between now and when you’ll be on the cusp of turning pro?
“Consistency, game in and game out. At the junior level, since it’s a younger group of guys, consistency is always going to be a challenge. It’s something every junior has to work on if they want to be a NHL regular.
“Being on the [2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup] host team is going to be good in terms of that. Every game is going to be a pressure game. We want to go in there through the front door, not just be the host team. We want to win the OHL championship. We want to go on the long [playoff run]. All the games throughout the regular season will be huge, all the games leading into the playoffs will be huge and when we get there, everyone’s going to be used to pressure situations … our coach isn’t going to let us rest on being the host team.”
4. What is the best asset you bring to a team?
“Combining the physical part of the game as well as the offensive aspect. I get most of my offence by being a bang-and-crash guy, finishing my checks, working the cycle. Running a guy over, then contributing with the offence, I’d say that is my biggest asset.”
5. Favourite pregame meal or ritual?
“Me and a guy on our team, Riley Brace, we always used to get yogurt and berries and a large [Tim Hortons] double-double before a game … we did it one game and we both played pretty well, so we kind of just stuck with it.”
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.