Among the variables going into Ducks training camp involves which players, among a bevy of eligible forwards, will grab the upper hand on openings among the third and fourth lines. Expect to find Devante Smith-Pelly
among the discussion.
|“I’m coming here to play my best and try to make the team,” Smith-Pelly said. “Looking at the depth chart, you can see that there are some holes that young guys are trying to fill. That is in the back of my mind." |
The Ducks’ second round draft pick in 2010 is coming off a superb season with his junior team (Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League), scoring 36 goals and 66 points in the regular season. He did even more damage in the playoffs with 15 goals and 21 points to lead the club within one win of the Memorial Cup.
After a successful first camp with the Ducks in the fall of 2010, Smith-Pelly was sent to juniors, and the 19-year-old says that assignment helped him make notable improvement over the past year. “I tried to go back and work on my two-way game,” Smith-Pelly said. “I still wanted to put up good offensive numbers, but not be a liability in our own zone. I thought the coaches back in Mississauga helped me do that. I had a pretty good year and that I’ve gotten a lot better in the last 365 days.”
Smith-Pelly continued to shine even during this offseason. He was among a small group to be singled out in a crowded field at Hockey Canada’s Whites-Reds scrimmage at Rexall Place. The competition pitted hopefuls for the nation’s 2012 World Junior squad, and Smith-Pelly found his way onto the scoresheet with a goal and an assist in the game. He also showcased the bruising style of play that Anaheim scouts were attracted to when they drafted him.
“Although my goal is to make the Anaheim Ducks this year, if I do get sent back down, that is my second goal – to play at the World Junior,” said Smith-Pelly, who played on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (the 2011 number one overall pick of Edmonton) during the scrimmage. “I just went in there and tried to play the type of game I have to play to make that team. I ended up doing pretty well.”
Smith-Pelly now enters this weekend on the precipice of realizing his boyhood dream of playing in the NHL. Having seen his fellow 2010 draftee Cam Fowler
lock up a roster spot with a strong performance during last year’s preseason, he knows how vital these next couple of weeks will be.
|“Last year coming in here, obviously I was still trying to make the team, but I didn’t think I was that close to playing for the Ducks,” Smith-Pelly said. “This year there are spots open and all the younger guys are a lot closer. I’m excited to get started.” |
“I’m coming here to play my best and try to make the team,” Smith-Pelly said. “Looking at the depth chart, you can see that there are some holes that young guys are trying to fill. That is in the back of my mind. All the guys who are going for those spots are great players. Whoever does the best is going to deserve it.”
No player taking the ice for training camp knows Smith-Pelly better than Joseph Cramarossa
, a teammate of Smith-Pelly’s the last two seasons in Mississauga. With Anaheim’s selection of Cramarossa in the third round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the two have been able to spend even more time together on the ice at conditioning and rookie camps for the Ducks.
Cramarossa has seen first-hand his close friend’s steady progress and sees him being ready to make the jump to the NHL right now. “Out of all the guys our age, he might be the one who has improved the most,” he said. “He is one of our key players on the Majors, a go-to-guy. He completely surprised everyone at the World Junior camp, just by being physical and showing what he can do with the puck. He has a chance at making this team from what I’m hearing and I don’t blame them. He’s doing great.”
As training camp opens on Saturday at Honda Center and preseason games commence Tuesday at the arena, be on the lookout for Smith-Pelly. His yearlong ascension may be rewarded with a ticket to Europe and the NHL Premiere with the Ducks.
“Last year coming in here, obviously I was still trying to make the team, but I didn’t think I was that close to playing for the Ducks,” Smith-Pelly said. “This year there are spots open and all the younger guys are a lot closer. A two-way, hard-hitting forward, this is the type of game I really have to focus on if I want to make it this year, next year or any year really. I’m excited to get started.”