It will be the second consecutive day that we will talk about a defenseman that was a draft day steal for the Buffalo Sabres. Unlike yesterday when we talked about a current NHL player we will talk about a player who had a good career but is now retired.
Richard Smehlik- 1990 (5th round, #97 overall)
Smehlik was drafted in the 5th round of 1990 but he was only the third player that the Sabres selected in that draft. The Sabres drafted Brad May in the first round of 1990 and they did not have a second or third round pick that season. After he was drafted, he continued to play in his native Czech Republic until joining the Sabres for the 1992-1993 season.
It's becoming a trend when doing these draft posts but Smehlik started his career with huge numbers and eventually tailed off. In just his second season at the age 24 Smehlik set his career high for goals and points while tying his mark for assists. He scored 14 goals with 27 assists for 41 points in his best season of 1993-1994. He was also a career best plus 22 in that season. In 1994-1995 his overall stats declined greatly but he suffered a knee injury that eventually kept him out of the entire 1995-1996 season.
He returned to lineup in 1996-1997 and he didn't miss a beat. In his return he scored 11 goals and added 19 assists in 62 games played. As is the trend his career went on the decline from there. He played until 2003 but he never scored more than three goals in any one season after 1996-1997. Smehlik played with the Sabres until the end of the 2001-2002 season and he signed as a free agent with Atlanta during that off-season. He played only 43 games with the Thrashers before being traded to the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline.
Smehlik retired after that season making it official on September 17, 2003. Smehlik was known early in his career as an offensive defenseman but he did not score much in the later stages of his career. Despite being an offensive defenseman he only one playoff goal in 88 career playoff games. I will always remember Smehlik as a very good Buffalo Sabres defenseman, the type of player that you want on your team.