The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 500 readers that ranked players under the age of 25 by September 1st, 2019. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
Following a great year at the AHL level, CJ Smith finds himself in the Top 25 Under 25 for the second consecutive year. This 13th place rank comes after registering in at 17th last year.
When signing with the Buffalo Sabres back in 2017, he was described as one of the more highly touted college prospects after graduating from UMass Lowell. With the River Hawks, Smith developed his nose for the net along with some quality speed to separate him from the competition.
Smith, 24, spent the majority of the season last year in the AHL with the Amerks. He became one of the more consistent players with Rochester which helped him see 11 games with the Sabres at the NHL level.
He scored his first two NHL goals while up with the big club, but could not quite find his footing besides that.
Smith and the Sabres enter a key year in his development. The Des Moines, Iowa native has shown that he is able to play and produce every night at the AHL level, but has not done the same at the NHL level. At least that is what the organization sees.
Either the former AHL All-Star Game MVP needs to step up and be a noticeable offensive player for the Sabres, or Ralph Krueger and staff need to put him in a situation where he can succeed by playing him with players who can aid his talent around the net.