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Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: #4 - Ty Smith

Ty Smith is back, and he’s no longer exempt from waivers. That could mean a longer shot at the Penguins roster for the former New Jersey Devils defenseman.

NHL: JAN 18 Penguins at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins have four left-handed defenseman in Ryan Graves, Marcus Pettersson, P.O. Joseph and Ty Smith. Can the former first-round pick challenge for an NHL roster spot in what might be his last shot with the Penguins?

2023 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Daniel Laatsch
#24: Cooper Foster
#23: Thimo Nickl
#22: Dillon Hamaliuk
#21 Mikhail Ilyin
#20: Jack St. Ivany
#19: Chase Yoder
#18: Emil Jarventie
#17: Nolan Collins
#16: Raivis Ansons
#15: Ty Glover
#14: Taylor Gauthier
#13: Isaac Belliveau
#12: Lukas Svejkovsky
#11: Tristan Broz
#10: Sergei Murashov
#9: Emil Pieniniemi
#8: Sam Poulin
#7: Jonathan Gruden
#6: Joel Blomqvist
#5: Valtteri Puustinen

#4: Ty Smith, D

2022 Ranking: No. 1

Age: 24 (June 4, 1999)

Acquired via: John Marino trade in July 2022 (extended on one-year, $775k deal in July)

Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 pounds

Elite Prospects resume:

After making his Penguins debut December 30, Smith remained in the NHL for a nine-game stretch. He scored his first Penguins goal on January 5, then he was returned to the minors after January 18.

That’s all the Penguins saw of him in 2022-23.

It was a far cry from the 66-game season Smith played in 2021-22 with the New Jersey Devils.

In the minors, the former Devils defenseman got more of a shot. He led all Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman with seven goals and ranked second with 24 points in just 39 games.

Smith suffered a facial fracture in February that kept him from the ice for over a month, limiting his NHL availability even when a series of blue-line injuries meant it was likely Smith would have gotten a call up.

He was also waivers exempt, making it an easy trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Smith returned at the end of March and was available in April, but was never called up during the crushing end to the Penguins’ playoff hopes in the final weeks of the season. Fellow part-time AHLer Mark Friedman, who had to clear waivers to be moved, was a roster regular in April.

What the organization saw from Smith in the minors was enough to earn him one more year with the Penguins. Was it enough to earn him a longer stint in the NHL?

Smith is no longer waivers exempt on his new contract, so the Penguins risk exposing him to the rest of the NHL if they send him down to the minors.

But there is also a backlog on the left side of the Penguins defense, which is currently filled by Ryan Graves, Marcus Pettersson and P.O. Joseph.

Can Smith challenge Joseph, who would also need to clear waivers for a trip to the AHL, for that roster spot?

Or could he play on the right despite his left-handed shot and snag a roster spot out from under Chad Ruhwedel?

Smith has been scouted throughout his career as an offensive defenseman. Despite missing a significant stretch of the campaign, he ranked second on the WBS Penguins with 94 shots in the season.

After his pursuit of Erik Karlsson, that offense mindset is something we can assume Kyle Dubas prizes. That, combined with Smith’s less flexible waivers status, could be enough to give Smith his first long-term chance at an NHL roster spot in Pittsburgh this fall.