San Jose Sharks General Manager Mike Grier wants to build a competitive, tough, skilled team. Newly signed, forward Givani Smith brings the toughness in spades. When Luke Kunin was lost for the season last December, the Sharks lost some of that toughness. Jonah Gadjovich filled in admirably in that aspect but also dealt with injuries as well. Enter Givani Smith. Last season with the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers, Smith had eight fighting majors in 36 games. That’s one every 4.25 games.
While Smith is more than willing to stick up for his teammates and drop the gloves. A former second round pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL Draft, Smith was a former 26 goal scorer for the Guelph Storm in the OHL. Since then, Smith has never lit up the score sheet, never topping 10 goals in a season once he turned pro in the 2018-19 season. Last year for the Red Wings organization, he only played two NHL games and 19 AHL games for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He chipped in five points, including two goals in those games.
Smith was traded to the Florida Panthers as part of a three team trade in December. With the Panthers, Smith played 34 games down the stretch where he scored 4 points in the time but only averaged 6:50 time on ice per game. Smith did also play game one of the playoffs versus the Boston Bruins but didn’t see the ice for the rest of the playoffs. This offseason, the Sharks signed Givani Smith to a two year $800,000 deal.
Where does Smith fit?
Heading into training camp, Givoni Smith will be fighting for a job in the NHL. With Kunin expected to return from his ACL injury, Smith could be one of the many forwards who start this season in the AHL on the San Jose Barracuda. Since Smith doesn’t play special teams, he really is a fourth liner through and through. While the Sharks forward group isn’t the most talented team, it’s deep, and for a player like Smith who does one thing, toughness, it could be tough for Smith to crack the lineup.
If Smith does clear waivers, he would start the season with the Barracuda and should be a middle six forward for them. With Jeffrey Viel now with the Winnipeg Jets and Montana Onyebuchi in the desert with the Arizona Coyotes, there are some opportunities for Smith in a more rough-and-tumble AHL. Smith does have 151 career AHL games, where he has scored 52 points and racked up 266 PIM. Being a depth AHL piece for a Barracuda team that is looking to make the AHL playoffs for the first time since the 2020-2021 season could be the best for the organization.
What’s next for Smith?
Expect Givani Smith to play the majority of his time with the Barracuda. While this is expected to be a long season for the Sharks, they will want to get a good look at some of their younger players, including Thomas Bordeleau, Danil Gushchin, and Tristen Robins. Smith, who turned 25 in February, should be looked at as a quality depth AHL piece for the Sharks. They can recall him if Kunin is hurt or traded this season, and they want to add some toughness, but having a player in the lineup who just fights, isn’t the greatest usage of a roster spot.
Bold Prediction: Givani Smith leads the San Jose Barracuda in penalty minutes this season.