Today's Nashville Predators birthday boy is none other than the Honey badger himself, Craig Smith, who turns 23:
Last season for the Preds, Smith showed the kind of offensive impact (14 goals, 22 assists in 72 games) we haven't seen from a rookie since Alexander Radulov came on the scene six years ago. His speed and tenaciousness to drive pucks on net were welcome additions to a lineup which too often falls into a pass-happy mindset.
Heading into Year 2, there will be increased attention put on Smith to follow up on the promise he showed in 2011-2012. Personally, I'm very bullish on Smith, as the ability to create shots and scoring chances is much more consistent from year-to-year than goal-scoring, which is subject to random swings in shooting percentage. The especially encouraging news with Smith was that he scored those 14 goals on 172 shots, for an 8.1% shooting percentage which if anything, looks likely to up-tick in 2012-2013***. Typically, forwards shoot in the 10-12% range, so even average "puck luck" would bring him up around the 20-goal mark, before we even factor in greater ice time opportunities which he may be able to earn as a sophomore.
So here's to hoping we see plenty of this... soon!