Gemel Smith’s career takes an ironic twist
Gemel Smith’s professional hockey story is rather unique.
The Toronto-born Smith grew up as an avid Detroit Red Wings supporter. His younger brother, Givani, was a huge Boston Bruins fan.
Ironically, Givani was taken by the Wings during the second round of the 2016 draft and is currently skating for Detroit’s farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Bruins claimed Gemel off waivers from Dallas earlier this season.
Weird how fate works sometimes.
But the change of scenery has been kind to the older Smith. He’s flourished in Jay Leach’s system since arriving in Providence following his three-game stint in Boston back in December.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward has potted 12 goals and 17 assists in 34 games for Providence this season. He’s just five points away from surpassing his career-high 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) at the AHL level that he set with the Texas Stars in 2016-17.
At the same time, Smith is closing in on a new career mark in goals (13 during the 2015-16 campaign) and assists (21 in ’16-’17). The 24-year-old has 47 goals and 68 assists for 115 points in 220 career AHL games. He sports an 11-8-20 stat line in 80 career NHL contests.
Smith started off his career in Providence with a bang, scoring 12 points in his first 12 games while also riding a six-game point streak during the early stages of January. The 2012 fourth-round selection found the back of the net twice on Jan. 4 against Lehigh Valley — including the game-winner — and added three assists on Jan. 12 in Springfield.
After cooling off for a bit, the 24-year old bounced back with a three-point effort against Springfield on Jan. 26. Two games later, on Feb. 2, Smith provided the lone goal in Providence’s 1-0 overtime win against the league-leading Charlotte Checkers on the road. His game-winner extended the P-Bruins point streak to 11 games at the time.
Smith had himself quite the weekend of Feb. 22-24 with four points on three goals and one assist. The fifth-year pro assisted on Trent Frederic’s 11th goal of the season to give Providence a 1-0 first period lead in its eventual 4-3 overtime home win over the Hershey Bears last weekend.
Since his arrival in Providence, there’s no question Smith has been a force offensively. His offensive prowess always shone best on the power play, however. That is something he carried over from his junior hockey days in the Ontario Hockey League.
A versatile left-handed shot that can play both wing and center, Smith generally finds himself manning one of the points. This responsibility has led him to score a career-high four power play goals this season.
Another seasoned AHL veteran with decent NHL experience, Providence expects a seasoned pro like Smith to team up with players such as Paul Carey and Lee Stempniak — as long as they’re not in Boston — to lead the Baby B’s towards another playoff berth. Driven by a demotion to the ECHL in 2015-16 and spending summers working with his aforementioned brother, Smith brings a focused and mature locker room presence that is essential to the late playoff push.
But given his track record of bouncing back when things get tough and his ability to collect points in bunches, Smith should be able to handle himself just fine.