February 04, 2016
Slovakian defenseman Peter Smrek was a promising St. Louis Blues prospect.
Drafted 85th overall in 1999, Smrek immediately crossed the pond and began playing in the American Hockey League.
By his second pro season his play was progressing nicely. He got to play in the mid-season AHL All Star Game even.
In February Smrek got a six game call up to the Blues.
Smrek will never forget the game on February 15th, 2001. It was his first home game in St. Louis, and his third in the NHL. The game was initially delayed by about 90 minutes due to a power outage. But when the game finally got started, Smrek scored his first (and only) two goals of his NHL career, including the game winner.
The Blues, suffering from late season injuries to Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis, traded Smrek to the New York Rangers near the 2001 trade deadline in exchange for veteran Alexei Gusarov.
For a while it looked like the typical veteran-for-prospect trade deadline deal would be a steal for the Rangers. Gusarov would be a non factor in St. Louis' playoff run and retired that summer. Smrek would finish the season with the Rangers. He was seemingly not far off from a real audition with the Rangers.
But it never panned out for Smrek at the NHL level.
Smrek was a wonderful skater who excelled at the transition game. He made strong outlet passes and handled the puck with poise. Yet he never put up significant offensive totals. Defensively he was slow to learn to read the play at the NHL level. Physically he was spirited but rangy and not overly strong.
Smrek would play only 22 games over two seasons with the Rangers, continuing to apprentice in the minor leagues the following season. He then was out of the league altogether in 2002.
Smrek, who represented his native Slovakia at the 2002 Olympics and World Championships, continued his career in Europe for several more seasons.