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Why do some players transition so seamlessly to higher levels of play(Danny DeKeyser) and some struggle so much (Brendan Smith). Is it really just as simple as one player being more talented than the other? Or do certain skills project better than others? Let's find out.
Let's first start out by comparing the style between DeKeyser and Smith. DeKeyser is much more positionally sound and much more defensive than Smith is. However, Smith has offensive skills that DeKeyser doesn't have. A lot of Smith's mistakes result from his inability to make the right pass at the right time or to escape pressure effectively. All of this can be traced to his style of play. All throughout Smith's hockey life he has been the best player on the ice. He didn't need to find the best pass quickly because he could make a nice move around the guy coming at him he could rush the puck up into the opposition's zone, then he could make the easy pass, sit at the point and fire an open shot. But even when this didn't work out, he had the speed and skill to retrieve the puck if he had lost it since he was always the most skilled player on the ice. However, Smith is no longer the most talented player on the ice, he knows this obviously, but his ability to make the best pass at the best time just hasn't ever been developed because of how advanced his other skills were. This is a huge contrast to DeKeyser and his skill set. Often times you hear about the passing prowess of a guy like DeKeyser. He has great vision and can see the play developing at such a high level he can make the great outlet pass. This is a skill that he has developed instead of the speed or hands that Brendan Smith has developed. Obviously, one translates immediately to the NHL and one doesn't. So we know that right now DeKeyser is a better player than Brendan Smith. However, who will be the better blue-liner in 5 seasons? Let's find out.
DeKeyser's developmental ceiling places him at a very good second pairing defenseman or an average first pairing defenseman. This restriction is based upon his general lack of offensive ability. You would really hope that your #1 defenseman can lead a power play and be a consistent point scorer. DeKeyser will project into a very good defenseman who will play an extremely solid defensive game.
Brendan Smith on the other hand has a much higher ceiling. Due to his offensive skills, Smith has the ability to be a #1 Dman. Smith is fast, skilled, and has the capacity to score both on the rush and from the blue line with his great shot. He can run the power play with his great ice vision and shooting abilities. Smith projects to be an elite defenseman.
Despite Smith having a much higher ceiling than DeKeyser it doesn't mean that he will actually reach it and be a better player. Smith has a lot of skills to develop still despite being in the NHL. Sometimes it takes a player a long time before they reach their potential Smith has to be more responsible with the puck, he has to position himself better, and he definitely has to make better passes. However if he can do these things and throw in about 15 to 20 goals a year, you are looking at the next #1 Defenseman to wear the Red Sweater.