Back in April 2014, Devante Smith-Pelly was surprised when then-Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau sent him out in a shootout vs. the Kings. Expect the unexpected is probably part of his motto at this point. Following being drafted by Anaheim and developed in their system, The 28-year-old forward went on to play for the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils before winning a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018. And he wasn’t just a passenger during the Captials run, he potted 7 goals in their 24 playoff games that season.
Despite a few years of success in DC, Smith-Pelly found himself in the KHL last season. Then, when it came time to start up this season, he was a man without a team… until a few weeks ago.
With Tyler Madden out injured and the Reign looking to add a little more veteran presence to an extremely young and inexperienced group, a perfect match was found.
On Thursday, we caught up with Smith-Pelly for a chat regarding several different topics:
Smith-Pelly on how the Reign deal came together
I was just at home training. My agent was always making calls and seeing what’s out there. It’s a challenging year with COVID and whatnot, but he kept working and kept making calls. I think Ontario approached him when they had an injury, plus it’s a young team. From the first time I heard about it to me getting on a plane, it was three days. It all came together really quickly. The end goal is, obviously, getting back to the NHL. But, I know there are steps that need to be taken in-between. So the AHL was the more realistic option for this season. I have no problem with that. Just coming back and playing in North America, though, it’s huge for me.
Ontario Reign roster update…
Sounds like they'll be signing former NHL forward Devante Smith-Pelly to an AHL deal. Will add some veteran experience. RW played 395 NHL games and spent last year in the KHL.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 13, 2021
On if he noticed the sizable social media buzz about his signing
I don’t tweet too much, but I’m on twitter and Instagram, so I did see all of that. I saw a lot of people from D.C. who still follow what I’m doing, after that run there. It was really nice to see that people are still thinking about me and caring about what’s going on in my career, even after I’m gone from there.
On his overall KHL experience – thumbs up, in the middle or down
I would say thumbs up. I got a chance to go to places that I never thought I would go. Living in Beijing for a little bit, that was awesome. It’s a nice place. Then, being relocated to Moscow, another really nice city. During our international breaks, I got to go to South Korea and Dubai, places that I didn’t think I would ever get to visit. That all came within that one season. The team was good, everyone treated me well, and I had a good time. So, overall, I would say it was a positive experience.
On his early impressions of Coach John Wroblewski
I’ve been really impressed with coach Wrobo. He’s very energetic, very passionate. Those are the things that I’ve picked up on, just being around for the last 10-15 days. He’s trying to get his message across and he’s gonna help these young guys move on. Thus far, the whole coaching staff has been a positive experience. They’re going to help these these young guys a lot. I think they’re gonna look back at this time in Ontario and really credit the coaching staff with helping them.
On Quinton Byfield
Extremely, extremely impressed. Obviously, I had heard about him and watched World Juniors. He comes with a high pedigree. I’ve been extremely, extremely impressed with how well he’s played, how he looks up there, and the way he carries himself. Just everything, really. It’s funny, the other day I was trying to compare him to someone else who was a pick that high, is that big, and that good. I couldn’t really think of any guy that I’ve ever seen like that. He’s gonna be an amazing – he already is an amazing player, but at the next level, he’s gonna be a star.
On Byfield’s goal streak
Some gold from the interview
It's not lost on @smithpelly23 that he showed up and @byfield55 has gone on a goal scoring streak – "I would like to say I have something to do with it. I've only had an assist on one of them, but timing lines up so I can take a little bit of credit"
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 25, 2021
On Akil Thomas
I’m impressed with him, as well. On the ice, he’s an extremely hard worker. I didn’t even know how old he was. For a 20 year old, he’s extremely, extremely passionate and extremely serious about his work. I ended up being roommates with him and he’s doing a lot of stuff off the ice. He always ends the day with stretching and rolling out, doing all these things I wasn’t doing at 20. Actually, I’ve never seen a 20 year old really take it into their own hands like that. I’ve been extremely impressed with him, on and off the ice. He’s gonna be a helluva a player, as well.
On the most annoying part about being roommates with Thomas
Honestly, I’m pretty low-key and laid-back. He’s on his phone calls and I’m just sitting there hanging out. Nothing really bugs me too much. The only thing I can say is he likes the room extremely, extremely cold. We’re not on the same page with that yet. I want him to feel comfortable and I want him to be ready for every game, so I had to put on a sweater for a couple of sleeps, but it’s okay.
On his real nickname being Devo, not DSP
That’s what everyone calls me; my parents, my friends, everybody. Unless I’m in trouble, my mom will pull a full name. But I haven’t been in trouble with them for many years. That’s just been my nickname for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I really have any friends or family members who call me Devante.
NOTE: We had more DSP — err, Devo — related conversations when Anthony Stewart dropped by Kings Of The Podcast recently. For reference, that show is linked below.
Kings Of the Podcast: Ep. Q5 with Akil Thomas, LA Kings Prospect
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Lead photo courtesy of Ontario Reign