Smith takes Heatley's old number

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 PM ET

Senators fans haven’t looked at jersey No. 15 too fondly in the past year or so.

But when Zack Smith was asked in the off-season if he wanted to change from 47 to something more hockey-traditional, he requested No. 15 “sheepishly” because of all its association with good, not evil. 

Dany Heatley did more than tarnish his name and sully the sweater when he whined his way out of town, remember?

“It’s the number I wore for all minor hockey and junior, and I’m glad to have it back,” Smith said after the informal players skate at Sensplex Tuesday, before chuckling when asked about the Heatley tie-in. “Obviously, it’s big shoes to fill. He was a former 50-goal scorer. But there was no problem getting it. 

“I got a few chirps about it. The guys were heckling me a bit, but I’m glad to have it.”

Peter Regin has also changed jersey numbers, from 43 to 13, for sentimental reasons.

“I’ve had that my whole career ... last year was my first year not playing in 13,” said Regin. who is entering his sophomore season as a projected Top 6 forward. “If you’re here a couple of years, it’s probably tougher to change. I like 13 better, so that’s why.”

Thirteen is also the favourite number of Regin’s mother.

“Yeah, but she told me that after I picked it,” he said. “That’s not why I picked it.”

Meanwhile, Smith recognizes he’ll be involved in a different kind of numbers game when camp starts this weekend. He has a two-way contract while 12 other forwards have one-way deals. That means, like Bobby Butler, he’d make minor-league money if he’s in the minors, whereas a guy like Ryan Shannon will get his $625,000 NHL salary whether he’s in Binghamton or Ottawa.

Owners generally frown on having to pay farmhands the big-league bucks. 

“That’s the unfortunate part,” the 22-year-old Smith said of his situation. “Sometimes, the way numbers work out, a guy on a two-way contract is more likely to go down. But I think if I play well enough, they’re going to have to keep me around.”

Smith, who will earn $583,000 US if he sticks with the parent club, proved he’s capable last season. He had two goals and an assist in 15 games for Ottawa, giving the Senators a fourth-liner who provided a gritty, physical presence and was ready and eager to drop the gloves. 

Smith suited up for all six of the Senators’ playoff games against Pittsburgh, averaging 7:24 of ice time.

“After playing in the playoffs, I got a better idea of where I need to be coming into camp,” said the 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Maple Creek, Sask.

Smith appeared to have a shot at full-time NHL employment this time last season, but admits he wasn’t as ready as he should have been. This time, things are different. 

“I knew what I had to do different, coming into this year,” he said. “Last year was a good learning experience. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, coming into this camp, I’m skating well and I’m feeling good about myself.

“Obviously my goal is to come in to camp and make the team. I wasn’t happy with my camp last year. I didn’t perform the way I needed to. I think that was the main reason I didn’t stick around. 

“Numbers come into it, but hopefully I’ll stick around after main camp.”


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