Brendan Smith appears ready for the NHL. The highly-skilled, 22-year-old puck-moving defenseman would be preparing for his first NHL season in many organizations.
The Red Wings, however, prefer their prospects to be “over-ripe” by the time they arrive in Detroit. And with seven defensemen with NHL experience ahead of him on the depth chart, Smith is destined to start the season with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.
But that doesn’t mean Smith will end the season in the minors. The Wings are high on Smith and feel he needs a little more seasoning in Grand Rapids, but they also plan on having him spend some time in Detroit this season, learning from the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom.
“I want to end up playing for the Red Wings, and how I’m going to do that is by working out hard and then proving it in training camp,” Smith said. “We’ll see how everything goes. If I’m ready, they’re going to give me the shot. If not, they’re going to send me back down to Grand Rapids.”
The Wings realize there’s no point in having Smith watch games in Detroit when he could be playing 20 minutes a night in all situations in Grand Rapids. So unless he’s playing regularly with the Wings, which is highly unlikely after they signed free agents Ian White and Mike Commodore this summer, Smith likely is headed to the minors after the preseason.
Smith, the 27th overall pick in the 2007 entry draft, had a strong rookie season with the Griffins. Despite missing 17 games because of shoulder and knee injuries, he led all AHL rookie defensemen with 12 goals, and his 32 points were the third-most by a rookie defenseman in franchise history.
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