The 28-year-old has 22 points in 43 games this season, including 11 goals. He has two short-handed goals to his name thus far and seems primed for more.
Smith’s best offensive season came in with the Senators in 2015-2016, when he put up 36 points in 81 games. He registered 25 goals that season and it may be a only a matter of time before he cracks that total again. Needless to say, Ottawa likes his chances.
Perhaps more than that, Ottawa likes the intangibles he brings to the table.
“Any time there’s a scrum he punched people in the head. I like that,” general manager Pierre Dorion said. “Our penalty killing has improved a lot this year. A lot of that goes on our coaching staff but a lot of it goes on our players, and Zack is an important part of our penalty kill.”
Smith has been seeing an upgrade in fortunes as of late, with the Senators believing in him enough to grant him time on the top two lines and even on the power play. He’s on pace to set career highs in points and that’s due in large part to a history in which he carved out a name for himself the hard way.
Smith spent considerable time in the AHL with the Birmingham Senators, helping them win the Calder Cup in 2011 and skating on a checking line. He assumed the same role in the big leagues, but now he’s receiving about 16 minutes of ice time per game and is making the most of it.
“Being able to crawl out of that pigeonhole that I was in, labelled as a third- or fourth-line checker guy, it was nice to get that opportunity and show that I had more of an offensive side,” Smith said.
That offensive side has helped fuel the Senators’ success this season, as the club finds itself in playoff position after missing out last season. They’re second in the Atlantic Division, with a 25-15-5 record following a 7-6 loss to Columbus on Sunday night.
But Smith had two goals in the loss and that’s something to hang a contract extension on.