by Denis Savage
Peter Smrek is among a cast of blueliners who have offensive upside to go with the demanding rigors of life as a NHL defenseman. He was acquired in March of last season for Alexei Gusarov, in what may turn out to be a brilliant “steal” from St. Louis, who in turn had drafted him in the 3rd round 85th overall (1999).
Listed at 6’1″ and 220lbs, this Slovakian plays a tough defensive game and has seen plenty of ice time in the AHL with the Worcester IceCats. Now 22, Smrek has the size and speed to battle tough in the corners while having the agility to make the outlet pass out of the defensive zone. So far he has not used his size to the level that would make him a solid top four contributor, and based upon the glut of offensive minded defensemen the Rangers have, would be his ideal fit.
He has the speed to get back quickly on the rush and his one-on-one checking has not left him out of position. He plays a smart game and is reliable in his own end. Smrek projects to have the capability to amass anywhere between 20-40 points and may end up getting time on the power play to increase those numbers due to his hard shot.
|The former Blue adds depth to the Rangers defense
The plan. Peter Smrek, wearing #25, will be lining up this year for the full season in the NHL. Many figure it will be a battle between Peter and Mike Mottau on who ends up in Hartford this year. Given the Rangers lack of defensive prowess last year they will opt for the more sure fired Smrek (who has 20 pounds on Mottau), to shore up the defensive line.
His game is just more sound on the defensive end and if there is any hope of bringing down the goals against he will be a big part of it. Skating in 20 games for the Rangers last season he was one of the few to have a positive plus/minus at +3. Thus lending credibility to his effective efforts defending the defensive zone.
Peter Smrek may never be known for his bone crunching hits or as an offensive machine but he will be known as a steady player who makes smart decisions and chooses the safe play rewarding the Rangers with his stability. Mike Mottau is hot on his heels and will look to unseat Peter if given the opportunity.
This season it looks like Smrek will be teamed with a new acquisition Dave Karpa, formerly of Carolina, placing him 5th on the depth chart. If Smrek comes into his own this season and really starts to take the body this tandem will be a sound one, and help bring the goals against down.