There are sophomore slumps, and there’s what Ty Smith just had this season. After a promising rookie season, many expected him to take a step back and struggle a little defensively, but he was arguably the worst player on the ice every time he stepped out there.
Don’t write off Smith just yet, but this year couldn’t have gone worse for him. He was scratched multiple times and finished with fewer points this season compared to his rookie year despite playing 18 more games.
It seemed like everything that had gone right for him last year wanted no business with him this year. He had no confidence moving the puck and making outlet passes, and he struggled to get the puck to the net, which is supposed to be a skill for him.
As for the defensive side of his game, he was a complete liability on the left side of the ice, especially in front of the net.
Take your pick on the embarrassing highlight; there’s Drake Batherson walking Smith and scoring in overtime, Smith’s outlet pass in Los Angeles getting picked off, or every time he would get manhandled by the opposition in the front of the net.
The talent is there, but he doesn’t have much more NHL time to prove himself. There are some young defensemen in Utica or free agents who could be making their way to the Garden State.
What I’d do: Do not trade him. His value is the lowest it’ll ever be. Have him start in Utica if he doesn’t have a good camp.